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The organic market has increased by 2% in 2023, reaching £3.2bn following 12 years of consecutive growth

Soil Association Certification has warned more can be done to boost UK organic production despite another increase in value sales across the category last year.

The organic market grew by 2% in 2023, reaching a total of £3.2bn in sales, following 12 years of consecutive growth, on the back of an increase in consumer demand, the organisation said.

But the certification body said that despite this growth in sales, the organic sector was still missing out on reaching the mainstream, with price the biggest barrier.

Volume levels were down by 6.7% in the year amid high inflation across grocery, but the organisation said trends were pointing to an upward trajectory for 2024.

“Organic has delivered a positive and resilient performance despite challenging financial and political conditions and without the support that organic food and farming receives in Europe and elsewhere in the world,” said Soil Association Certification commercial director Alex Cullen.

Sales of organic fresh produce had declined in the retailers as Aldi price matching on conventional lines had exaggerated the price premium on organic products, making them look more expensive to consumers, it said.

The organisation added that new information comparing the farmgate premium to the price customers pay in the supermarket for organic suggested that some premiums being charged by retailers were “significantly out of kilter and warrant[ed] closer scrutiny”.

It said that pricing in other regions had reduced the relative premium and unlocked growth in core organic lines.

“Every player in the supply chain needs to make a profit, but when price is the biggest barrier to scaling the most sustainable and trustworthy farming system we have, there need to be more questions about what it would take to achieve economies of scale,” Cullen added.

Further research from the organisation found that the amount of UK organic land remained flat at 3%, despite growth of 5.1% in Europe where organic is now at 10.4% of total farmland. 

“We can learn valuable lessons from Europe where there is greater support and commitment from governments and retailers for farmers and from some exciting innovations taking place right here across the UK – to make organic more available and affordable,” said Cullen.