The Role of Organics in Scotland – Reflections from Biofach 2023
Biofach trade show and congress, held in Nuremberg (13 - 17 February) is the worlds’ largest gathering of organic businesses, producer organisations and policy makers under one roof.
Biofach trade show and congress, held in Nuremberg (13 - 17 February) is the worlds’ largest gathering of organic businesses, producer organisations and policy makers under one roof. Vast halls of producers, and a packed programme of presentations and discussions offer the 36,000 visitors from 136 countries a chance to learn and engage with latest developments in the world of organic.
“Organic is the decisive response to the climate and biodiversity crises and those with a different view should go to the opticians.”
These were the words of German Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture Cem Özdemir at Biofach’s opening ceremony. He went on to announce a new 30% target for organic food used in public canteens, to accompany a 30% share of the agricultural research budget for organics, in support their target of 30% organic agricultural land by 2030.
Germany’s bold leadership on organic sits within the context of the EU’s “Farm to Fork Strategy”, targeting 25% organic farmland (from today’s 8%) by 2030. And with the recent news that every EU state now has an “Organic Action Plan” in place to achieve a share of this 25% target, Biofach 2023 felt like the centre of the international conversation on organic.
Across the 4 days at Biofach, our Scottish delegation made up of Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Government Food and Agricultural Policy colleagues and the Scottish Organic Stakeholder Group met, shared with, and heard from key people driving organic market and policy development across many countries. It was inspiring to hear from so many people who are passionate about transforming local and global food systems, to support better outcomes for people, climate, soil and nature.
In recognition that organic has an integral role to play for Scotland to become ‘a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture’, and a ‘Good Food Nation’, the Scottish Government has committed to doubling the amount of organic land by 2026.
Funding will be given to support farmers, for converting to organic through the Agri-Environment and Climate Scheme. And with the recent expansion of Food for Life Scotland now covering schools, hospitals, leisure, higher and further education, new opportunities will continue to be created for public procurement to show leadership in championing regional and organic food, as they have in East Ayrshire.
Farmers, and food and drink producers across the board, face an unprecedented set and scale of challenges; with rising input costs, compounded by a cost-of-living crisis, ongoing labour shortages and a changing climate. With these pressures, organic farmers and producers are being looked to, as experts in low input, nature friendly farming.
From fertility building without bought-in fertilisers, to building healthy soil and sharing agricultural land with nature, the hard work and knowledge of our organic producers is foundational to food security, and integral to sustainable food and drink production in Scotland.
With the consistent rise of ‘eco-active shoppers’, we know that consumers are increasingly looking for ways to make more sustainable choices with the votes they cast in their shopping baskets. While terms such as ‘sustainably-sourced’ and ‘regenerative’ are on the rise, the ‘organic’ mark, sets itself apart by being underpinned by a legally defined set of standards.
The Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2023 has shown that, despite the many pressures faced by producers and consumers, the UK Organic Market has just had its 11th consecutive year of growth and is now worth £3.1bn.
With the global organic market now worth £110bn, and a global community of 3.7 million organic producers – organic is sitting proudly in the mainstream internationally. Biofach 2023 has shown us the central role organics will play in Scotland’s ambition to become a leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and the potential of a new Scottish Organic Action Plan in achieving this.
Imogen Lambert (Scottish Government), Emma Henderson (Scottish Government), David McKay (Soil Association Scotland), and Adam Forrest (Scotland Food and Drink)
Scotland Food & Drink is the leadership body, which supports the growth of the Scottish Food and drink industry and acts as an interface between government and industry. For new or existing producers considering going or growing organic, take a look at our ‘UK Opportunities in Organic Webinar’ from the Knowledge Bank. Or connect with me firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss development opportunities, signposting and more in the sector.
Words by Adam Forrest, Organics Development Manager at Scotland Food & Drink