from David Peace, MD, Soil Association

Sir; I was disappointed to read Antony Worrall Thompson’s comments in his interview with Clive Beddall in The Grocer last week. The chef referred to our organic certification fees as “£300 for every time I want to tell someone my products are organic”.

This is not correct. We know that Worrall Thompson is one of the country’s greatest advocates of organic production, but he may have misunderstood our charging structure. Our company’s fee structure for organic certification is as follows:

l Smallholding farmers of less than 10 hectares: £405 + VAT per year.

l Processors - either a fixed minimum fee or 0.3% of organic product sales value - depending on the total of the organic sales
within the business concerned.

Unlike some other certifying bodies there are absolutely no hidden costs, such as charges for adding individual products to the licence, for derogations or for dealing with importation consignment documents.

We wholly agree with Antony’s stance on the principle of local and UK sourcing or organic food, when and wherever it is available, but we must also be mindful of those products which it is not possible to produce here.

May I now turn to Worrall Thompson’s assertion that “the Soil Association is too harsh with the rules”. Assuming he is referring to “harsh with the rules” in the context of small producers, we think he has a case. I would add, however, that our activities are governed by EU and UK law and our delivery of the certification scheme is monitored by the national authorities with the aim of optimum consumer protection.

Nevertheless, we are very keen to support small producers in every way we are able and are considering the merits of risk-based audits in certain, appropriate, circumstances.

This is something, however, that would need to be agreed with the EU authorities and when the time comes we would value Worrall Thompson’s support in our submission to the authorities on this subject.