Organic beef bucks downturn trend

Organic beef sales continued to soar last year, despite a general downturn in the organic market, according to the latest report from organic leaders.

According to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report, total sales plummeted 5.9%, down to £1.73bn during 2010, although it claimed the rate of decline slowed significantly throughout the year.

Despite this, beef sales rocketed by 18% and the SA said it remained “cautiously optimistic” for the year ahead.

According to the report, shoppers spend more than £33m a week on all things organic, and 86% of households now buy organic products.

Sales through multiple retailers fell by 7.7%, to £1.25bn, but the report claimed Waitrose and Marks & Spencer were anticipating modest growth for 2011, while Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and The Co-operative were predicting level sales year on year. Multiple retail accounted for 72.3% of the organic market in 2010.

Sales through independent retailers and catering accounted for the remaining 27.7% of the market, falling by 0.75% to £480m.

Other findings in the report included the prediction that poultry production is expected to fall in 2011, because of a combination of faltering consumer demand, high feed prices and the cost implications of impending changes to the EU organic regulations.

Roger Mortlock, Soil Association deputy director, said: “There is powerful evidence that consumers who care about the diverse benefits of organic will stay loyal, even during these tough economic times. 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 Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State at Defra, remarked recently: ‘Organic farmers are the pioneers of sustainable farming and have valuable lessons to pass on to the rest of the sector’.”