Organic producers consider options as credit crunch takes its toll

Posted by Isobel Drake on 5th January 2009

A number of organic producers in the UK have been forced to consider the prospect of losing their certification as high costs and falling demand bite and are looking at ways to sacrifice organic certification for only a short period of time. Organic feed costs for producers are estimated to be about double that of non-organic feed in the UK and some producers are beginning to struggle.

Organic Farmers & Growers (OFG) disputed claims from UK newspapers that it has asked for organic standards to be “relaxed” or to “bend the rules” but advised in a statement that a number of ideas had been floated.

“The certifying bodies and other key stakeholders have been in discussion among themselves regarding what measures might be possible and appropriate, given the financial difficulties facing the sector in the current severe economic downturn,” the reported. “We would stress that key to any discussions will be the need to maintain the integrity of the organic standards and the trust of the consumer.”

“As no proposals have yet been put forward, any discussion of specific measures would be extremely premature,” the OFG continued. “It is, however, fair to say that the broad aims would be to allow farmland to remain organic, even if the animals on it were to be fed on non-organic rations for a limited time, thereby enforcing the removal of the animals from the organic system.”

The notion behind such a possible idea is that re-entry into the organic sector cannot occur quickly and those forced to use ‘conventional’ feed for a short period of time instead of organic feed would be required to once again go through a lengthy conversion of their land.

“The industry’s aim is to protect the organic system for the welfare and environmental benefits it brings and ensure that progress made in expanding this sustainable method of farming is not lost,” OFG concluded.