Organic production falls and recession bites.

According to a report in the Farmers' Guardian, the number of UK farmers producing organic produce has fallen for the second consecutive year, as falling demand for organic produce takes its toll.

By the end of 2010, there were 7,300 organic producers and processors in the UK, 4 per cent down on the 2009 figure, Defra figures show. The 2009 figure was down by a similar level on the 2008 high of nearly 7,900 organic producers and processors.

The total organic land area fell by 3 per cent between 2009 and 2010 to 718,000 hectares. All UK regions have showed decreases, with Northern Ireland experiencing the largest percentage drop of 14 per cent.

The Soil Association, the leading organic certification body, blamed the exodus of organic producers on the impact of the recession on organic demand and prices. However, trade director Finn Cottle said the association remained ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the future.

“The recession has had an impact, with many consumers reviewing their food budgets,” she said.

“Sales of organic food were also affected as supermarkets cut back shelf space and availability - this is a significant factor as supermarkets account for about 72 percent organic food and drink sales.”

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