Increased support, worth £50,000, for organic production has been announced by the Scottish Government, coinciding with the release of new figures which show that organic poultry numbers increased by 30% in Scotland last year to 262,000.
The increase takes the Scottish organic sector’s share of total poultry numbers to 2%, a figure which Scotland’s cabinet secretary for the rural economy, Fergus Ewing, wants to see expanded further, alongside other organic outputs.
“The supply and demand of organic food has a significant role to play in driving forward Scotland’s rural economy, while contributing to protecting the environment,” said the cabinet secretary, announcing the launch of a £50,000 development fund under the title ‘Organic Ambitions’ – the industry’s Action Plan for 2016-20’.
“Organic spend in Scotland increased by 2.6% between February 2015 and January 2016, and around £52.6 million was spent on organic food and drink products in Scotland in the year to January 31, 2016.
“There is clearly evidence of strong demand and potential to boost the rural economy. I hope this funding will help to improve on these statistics.”
While the Scottish poultry sector’s 30% organic increase last year looks good, the overall organic picture isn’t as positive, with 2015 resulting in a 7% decline in the area of agricultural land used for organic farming (for all crops and livestock). This means the current area committed to organic farming in Scotland is now down to 126,000 hectares, or 2.3% of all the country’s agricultural land.
The latest figures for organic farmland area in the UK as a whole, meanwhile, puts the current organic share at 3%, contrasting sharply with a growth in organic production across Europe in general. The latest available European data (for 2014) shows 6% of agricultural land being used for organic farming.
The new Scottish Government initiative was welcomed as “excellent news” by Scottish Organic Forum Chair, David Michie, who said: “The key is to ensure we connect every link in the organic chain. This applies 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.”
The new fund, which applies to the financial year 2016/17, opened to applicants today (June 13). The deadline for applications is Friday, July 1, 2016.