Speciality, added value image needs to be boosted Organics hit by lower returns There is increasing concern that growers of organic crops will be unable to provide greater volumes to compensate for the lower prices. The position could worsen further if there is a recession. At Fruit Focus, Dr David Parry, director of HRI East Malling, told growers that although the market is booming, the public still only had a hazy understanding of organics, and there was no scientific evidence crops tasted better or were healtier. Parry said research into these matters could be one role for a £2.5m organics research centre recently set up in Kent. Meanwhile, prices were falling, with crops like potatoes and carrots at saturation point said M&S technologist Andrew Sharp. There were even unsubstantilated rumours at Fruit Focus that an organic strawberry crop grown for one multiple was so prolific that it was decided to switch back to labelling the fruit as conventionally grown. One solution mooted was the growing of more varieties to retain the speciality, added value image. Ron Green, md of Congelow Produce which last year moved into a new £2m, 56,000 sq ft packhouse to meet organic demand, said returns generally had dropped 10% compared with last year. Congelow's sales had doubled to £9m in two years. However it would have to continue to expand to maintain current levels of profitability. Sharp said M&S was confident about the future of organics after briefly pulling out of the sector. It had spent more promoting organics than any other multiple, he claimed. M&S now stocks 160 lines and has recently seen sales go up 100% for organic fruit and 25% for vegetables. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}