Growing Northern Ireland’s organic market

21 June 2010

Northern Ireland’s organic market is ripe for expansion, according to a new report which sets out detailed proposals for a sustainable food and farming future in Northern Ireland.

Written by the Soil Association, with the support of the Esmée Fairburn Foundation and the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme, Organic Future: Growing the organic market and food movement in Northern Ireland is the result of indepth research and consultation which took place in February earlier this year, and included several meetings with organic producers and consumers, a detailed survey of all participants, one-to-one interviews, and discussions with numerous stakeholder organisations.

“Our vision is to build a food movement in Northern Ireland, with organic as the benchmark standard,” says John McCormick, Soil Association Council member for Northern Ireland.

“I hope this report heralds a new chapter in Northern Ireland promoting the advantages and benefits of organic farming in supplying quality food sustainably, protecting farming and rural livelihoods, preserving our natural environment and helping to address the enormous challenges of resource depletion and climate change.”

Organic agriculture in Northern Ireland is considerably less developed than elsewhere in the United Kingdom with considerable scope for growing both the production and consumption of organic food. Over 250 organic producers farm 1% of the agricultural land area in Northern Ireland; this compares with a total of 4% of land in organic production in England, Scotland and Wales. The market for organic produce in Northern Ireland was worth approximately £30 million in 2008, which is just 1.4 % of the UK total sales of £2.1 billion.

The Organic Future report makes two key project proposals. The first project, titled ‘Growing Together’, seeks to emulate the Soil Association’s successful Food For Life Partnership which is helping schools across England to transform their food culture with £16.9 million from the National Lottery. The second proposal, titled ‘Celebrate Organic’, seeks to champion local and organic producers at a community level through events, awards and improved promotion of farmers’ markets and farm shops.

Look out for a feature on the Organic Future report in the summer issue of Organic Farming magazine (due August 2010).

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