The supply situation for Welsh organic meat Organic production in Wales has been developing steadily in the last five years, with particular emphasis on organic cattle and sheep production. This was despite over-supply conditions in some sectors, notably dairy, following the very rapid growth in 1999/2000. Between the end of 2002 and end of 2005, the number of holdings increased by 12% to 688, and the certified land area increased by 29% to 71,000 hectares, of which more than 90% is grassland. Growth in Wales has exceeded other parts of the UK, reaching 5% of agricultural land by end 2005. More rapid growth is projected for 2006 and possibly 2007. Organic cattle and sheep numbers have also increased steadily between 2003 and 2005, with total cattle numbers increasing by 114% to 37,000, and total sheep numbers increasing 105% to 248,000, representing 17 and 36% of the end 2005 UK organic population respectively (compared with 16% of UK holdings and 12% of UK land area). Actual output of Welsh organic lamb and beef is more difficult to quantifying reflecting a continuing need for improved statistical data to support market development and the delivery of public policy. Best estimates are 4000-5000 cattle slaughtered as organic, but potentially available production (some in conversion and/or marketed as conventional) may be as high as 8000 head. For lambs, possible estimates based on availables source range from 25,000 to 57,000, but potentially available production may be as high as 100,000. Better data is available within the industry, but is regarded as highly commercially sensitive and was not made available to the review team. Organic farm gate prices for lamb and beef have remained relatively steady over the period, although the gap with conventional prices has closed as the conventional sector has recovered. Recent increases in demand for organic meat, and the temporary suspension of beef imports from Argentina (now restarted) have resulted in some strengthening of organic prices in 2006. Organic premium prices do not, however, fully compensate for the increased costs of production per kg of meat, so that organic producers, like their conventional counterparts, are being paid less than the real costs of production, and are relying on Tir Mynydd, agri-environmental and Single Farm Payments to subsidise continued production. This leaves the industry vulnerable to any decline in market conditions and will mean continuing pressure on smaller producers to leave the sector. The Welsh organic red meat sector currently relies on two main marketing approaches. The majority of lamb and beef (> 80%) is marketed through multiple retailers, supplied by two producer groups. The need for producer collaboration to ensure a strong price negotiating position with the multiple retailers is recognised and has been yielding benefits. The remainder of Welsh production is marketed on a smaller scale through specialist and local retailers and directly to consumers, through farmers markets, farm shops and via internet sales. There is currently virtually no exploitation of the potential export market (outside the UK) and still some difficulties with marketing light and store lambs as well as dairy bred calves and cull cattle, although various initiatives are in progress to address this. The demand situation for Welsh organic meat From a consumer demand perspective, the overall organic food market is in a healthy state: according to TNS data, it has just passed the £1 billion mark and has put on an extra £200 million in the last two years. Growth in the latest year was 10% and 17% in the previous year. There is still huge opportunity for growth by continuing to convert non-users and simply getting existing users to purchase more often. Household penetration of any organic product is very high at 84%. However, many organic products are purchased by default, and are not planned, as consumers were either satisfying other needs or simply because they liked the product. The positive aspect is that organic is a benefit to products that fall in this category and gives something extra. Current organic users are also interested in most of the ethical issues affecting society today. They regard themselves as connoisseurs of food and wine and as such purchase quality and premium food. As the main contributor to the sales within each of these sectors, this may dilute the expenditure they could make on organic food specifically. Heavy users in total organic represent 20% of buyers and they are responsible for 80% of organic expenditure. You would expect these heavy users to be committed organic purchasers but they only spend 5% of their grocery shopping spend on organic products. None of them are exclusive organic users and they cross-shop across the retail quality tiers (Organic/Premium/Healthy/Standard and Value) extensively. In organic meat the situation is the same. There are 0.3% of meat shoppers who buy only organic and a further 0.1% who buy only organic and premium. The rest shop across all the tiers. This does however identify some of the scope for expansion and these heavy users must be prime targets for increased organic usage. The red meat heavy organic shopper will buy over six times a year but medium users just under twice and light users just over once. This level of frequency is low and would suggest little commitment from the light and medium buyers and a very mixed cross-tier purchasing strategy for the heavy organic buyer. There are 3.2 million households in GB who buy organic meat but there are only 68,000 who only buy organic meat. This figure is lower than that for any of the individual species, indicating that someone who is a loyal organic user of one species is not loyal to organic, when purchasing the other species. (Households who only purchase organic: Beef 108,000, Lamb 269,000, Pork 112,000, Red meat 68,000). Heavy organic meat buyers will have one or two children and be in social class ABC1; they may be younger and older family groups. They are over represented in London, South, Scotland, East England and the South West. Whilst beef is the biggest organic red meat sector, it is only 1.5% of total beef sales; Lamb is the strongest at 2.2% of sales. Pork is a clear third with organic being 1% of sales. Organic meat in Wales is currently worth £2.4 million and is growing at 3% a year. This growth is coming from new entrants into the market. Total GB is growing 10% ahead of Wales but the household penetration in Wales is higher at 13.1% compared to 12.9% for GB. Growth in Wales is coming from all age groups and social classes, with the under 28’s and the C2 groups being particularly strong. This report also looks at the retail market in Great Britain for organic produce; there are additional opportunities within the foodservice sector where a number of specialist organic restaurants are appearing and interest shown by some of the large operators in including an organic alternative on their menus. There are also opportunities for export of organic Welsh lamb; currently some exports to Italy are carried out and there is further potential to exploit and develop this market. The potential for export of light organic lamb is restricted to southern European markets due to the small size and high seasonality of the product. Hybu Cig Cymru is have ongoing discussions with potential buyers in countries such as Portugal, Spain and Greece; however to date, the small volumes required have precluded meaningful developments due to logistical difficulties. Recommendations Despite the generally positive outlook from a demand perspective, there is a need to address some of the factors that might discourage producers from converting, including disruption to the Organic Farming Scheme, price levels that are below costs of production, and lack of markets for some livestock categories, in particular light lamb. To address this, there is a need for: • better statistical data on current and future production levels and market shares; • continued efforts to support producer groups in developing markets for organic meat and in seeking to achieve realistic prices; • continued development of alternative marketing channels, building on Welsh PGI and organic status, including local multiple and smaller retailers, public procurement, distribution hubs and exports; • consumer promotion initiatives and increased Welsh organic meat presence at trade fairs; • improved production systems, supported by effective research and development and knowledge transfer; • improved integration of effort between organic sector businesses and the agencies that support the development of the Welsh meat and organic sectors; • better linkage with the dairy, arable and horticulture sectors to benefit from complementarity relationships between the sectors at production, market development and promotional levels
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