Scotland business

Fall in amount of organic land in Scotland

Pigs in pasture Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The number organic pigs in Scotland has trebled

The amount of agricultural land used for organic farming in Scotland has fallen by 7%, figures have revealed.

There are now 126,000 hectares, (almost the size of Fife) or 2.3% of agricultural land, given over to organic farming.

The figures for 2015 show this is the seventh consecutive fall in Scotland.

Land for organic potatoes and vegetables fell by 13%, but there were increases in the number of organic cattle, pigs and poultry.

The amount of organic land used in Scotland for grassland and rough grazing was down by 7% and cereals were down 9%. Pasture made up 93% of organic land.

The number of organic cattle went up by 10%, the number of pigs almost trebled and poultry was up by 30%.

Organic fund

However, there was a 26% fall in the number of sheep. There was also a decrease in the number of licensed producers and processors, down from 576 in 2014 to 539 in 2015.

Across the UK as a whole, organic farming has also declined with 3% of agricultural land now used, but in Europe organic farming is on the rise - the latest data for 2014 showed that it accounted for 6% of agricultural land.

Following the release of the figures, Scotland's Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing announced a £50,000 development fund for the organics sector.

Image copyright SPL

He said the fund would help deliver "Organic Ambitions" - the industry's action plan for 2016-20, with an initial focus on developing innovative approaches to strengthening the Scottish organic supply chain.

"The supply and demand of organic food has a significant role to play in driving forward Scotland's rural economy, whilst contributing to protecting the environment," he said.

"The Scottish government is committed to developing this sector which is why I'm delighted to support it with the Organic Ambitions Fund. The aim is to strengthen and promote Scotland's organic food and drink supply chain through better partnership working."

Mr Ewing said organic spend in Scotland increased by 2.6% between February 2015 and January 2016, and about £52.6m was spent on organic food and drink products in Scotland in the year up to 31 January 2016.

'Vitally important'

"There is clearly evidence of strong demand and potential to boost the rural economy, whilst at the same time enhancing Scotland's already stellar reputation for quality food and drink," he said. "I hope that this funding will help to improve on these statistics."

David Michie, chairman of the Scottish Organic Forum, said: "This is excellent news. Funding of this kind is vitally important if we are to achieve the goals our national organic action plan sets out, and allow the organic sector in Scotland to thrive.

"The key is to ensure we connect every link in the organic chain, from supply through to demand: making sure farmers, growers, producers and processors are able to create the right amount and range of top-quality organic products here in Scotland.

"After several years of contraction the organic sector needs some support to rebuild in a strong and resilient way."

The Organic Ambitions Fund will support one or more winning applications that can develop existing relationships within the organic supply chain and can identify and address critical gaps.

The applicants will also need to demonstrate a proven track record of successfully developing, co-ordinating and delivering projects.

The deadline for applications is Friday 1 July.

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