Sales of organic products tumbled by almost 6% last year, as reduced customer spending took its toll on the beleaguered sector.

The Soil Association’s annual Organic Market Report, published yesterday, revealed that sales were down 5.9% in 2010 to £1.73bn.

Supermarket sales of organic products fell even more sharply, down over the period by 7.7%. Shoppers at the multiples represented 72.3% of the organic market last year, with sales of £1.25bn.

The latest figures mark the second consecutive year of falling sales for organic products, which are down almost a fifth on its peak in 2008, when the sector was worth £2.11bn.

The number of organic producers also fell in 2010, down more than 4% in 2010 from a record 7,896 in 2009 to 7,567 last year.

“There is powerful evidence that consumers who care about the diverse benefits of organic will stay loyal, even during these tough economic times,” said Roger Mortlock, deputy director of the Soil Association.

“Given the current uncertainties in the UK and global economy, it would be rash to make any predictions for the future organic market. But the instability caused by climate change, population growth and resource depletion mean that business as usual in food and farming is not an option.

“As [environment secretary] Caroline Spelman remarked recently: ‘Organic farmers are the pioneers of sustainable farming and have valuable lessons to pass on to the rest of the sector.’”

Read more
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