Laura Stewart: Organic sector still growing despite the recession

THE organic market is growing at 8 per cent worldwide, despite the economic downturn. The only exception is the organic market in the UK, which declined 3.7 per cent this year.

Times are tough out there, but people don’t leave their values at the shop door – they look for ways to afford healthier, ethical products. The 7 per cent growth in home delivery, box scheme and mail order of organic food shows diversified shopping habits.

It’s possible to shop local and organic on a budget. Independent retailers run home delivery or box schemes offering a convenient, affordable way to shop. Sales in supermarkets, however, are down 5 per cent with decreased commitment to stocking organic products.

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Buying organic means supporting high animal welfare and enhancing biodiversity as well as looking after soil and water quality – no pesticides or artificial fertilisers are used in production. We are pleased the Scottish Government is behind the organic sector in Scotland.

Last year, in conjunction with the Scottish Organic Forum, the forward-thinking Organic Action Plan was launched by the government. The organic sector is working hard to support organic production, grow the market and increase understanding of the organic system.

The UK organic catering market grew by 2.4 per cent last year. The Soil Association believes fresh, local and organic food should be accessible for everyone. Our Food for Life catering mark started as a vehicle for change in school meals. Its remit has has broadened to recognise great food served in hospitals, universities and workplaces too.

The emerging Sustainable Food Cities Network makes the most of tools like the catering mark, and the growing movement to relocalise our food systems.

We want to see more Scottish cities and communities coming together to transform the local food economy. There is huge potential for increasing demand for local, seasonal and organic food across Scotland. Individuals and organisations can all get involved by using their purchasing power to help make these changes.

• Laura Stewart is head of Soil Association Scotland