Sales of organic produce have seen a 30 per cent increase in the past year, with two out of three UK consumers making sure at least some of their food is now organic.
But the Soil Association, which has released the figures in a report today, says demand is growing so much that it’s outstripping home-grown supply.
The organic produce sector increased to £1.6 billion last year, the bulk of which was bought in supermarkets, which accounted for £1.2 billion of the UK’s organic sales.
At the same time sales of organic produce at independent stores, farm shops, farmers’ markets and box schemes also rose by 32 per cent compared to 2004.
During 2005 the amount of UK land being converted to organic increased for the first time in four years and the country now has the third largest market for organic food in Europe after Germany and Italy.
The large retail chains bought 66 per cent of their organic primary produce from the UK, excluding items such as citrus fruit which are only grown overseas.
But Soil Association Food and Farming Director Helen Browning warned that previous years of under-investment in UK organic farms by the big chains meant demand was now outstripping supply.
‘In some ways it has been good news because producers are getting a sensible price for their products. But the downside is that availability will be difficult to maintain on shop shelves.’
The Soil Association says that pork, beef and cereals are among the UK organic produce which is in particularly short supply.
Helen Browning added: ‘There is a danger that retailers will be forced to look abroad for supplies and that consumers might be frustrated over time at not being able to purchase the range that they want.’