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Call for better organic stats



As the Government releases the latest UK statistics on organic food and farming a leading sector body has criticised the delay in sharing key market data which it says is stifling business planning.

The outcry from Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) comes as Defra released the 2010 figures for organic farming – in August 2011.

Traditionally the statistics on which the annual report is based are collated from organic control bodies as a snapshot as at the end of December each year and supplied to Defra by the end of the following January. This data is then analysed by National Statistics and released through Defra, but not until around eight months into the following year.

However, monthly reports are also required of the control bodies, which could be used to provide a rolling view of the sector, according to OF&G chief executive, Richard Jacobs, who has called for the release of industry data to be urgently improved.

He said: “Successful businesses know the value of timely and accurate statistics to inform their planning and allow swift responses to market changes. This is as true of a grain trader as a farmer trying to plan the shape of their business in coming months and years.”

This becomes incredibly hard to do if such key information as national organic herd and flock sizes and cereal or vegetable land areas is only made available when it’s eight months out of date. Apart from giving a year-to-year benchmark, this renders the data effectively useless as a planning tool. A farmer or food processor needs to see trends in order to react.

In these days of connected databases and every person with a smartphone having more computing power in their pocket than NASA had to send men to the moon, it beggars belief that we have to wait months for the numbers to be crunched. We should be getting at least quarterly updates to show everyone where the demand and opportunities lie.

All of the UK’s government-accredited organic control bodies are required to provide data on their licensees, including monthly figures on those entering and leaving the sector, with the annual report supplied as a snapshot of the figures on December 31 of each year.

Mr Jacobs added: “OF&G is fastidious about providing its figures to Defra before each deadline, and I’m sure all of the other organic control bodies are too, but we want to see better and quicker use made of the information. It will require the will on the part of Defra to make it happen and the equal co-operation of all control bodies, but it is hugely in the organic sector’s interest and we believe it desperately needs to happen, sooner rather than later.”

OF&G has vowed to take up the issue with Defra, including seeking clarification on why it currently takes so long for reports to be produced.


  • Organic Farmers & Growers inspects and certifies organic farming and food processing, commercial composting and the production of biofertiliser from anaerobic digestion across Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man;
  • OF&G was the first UK body accredited by the Government to carry out the inspection and certification of organic food and farming, in 1992;
  • More than half of the UK’s organic eggs and poultry and around half of the organic milk are produced under OF&G certification;
  • OF&G has its headquarters in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and can be found online at
  • The ‘Organic Statistics 2010 United Kingdom’ report from Defra can be found at

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