Organic future for Britain

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Organic food

A British government inquiry to be published tomorrow is expected
to back financial incentives for increased production of organic
food.

A British government inquiry to be published tomorrow is expected to back financial incentives for increased production of organic food, reported The Observer.

The Curry commission on the future of farming was launched in the wake of last year's food and mouth disease epidemic which prompted serious doubts for British farmers' futures.

With public anxiety over toxic pesticides, BSE and practices such as dosing livestock with antibiotics, the inquiry aims to identify ways of restoring the British shoppers' trust in food, and is likely to be a major boost for the organic trade.

Organic food has become an £800 million industry in the UK, but producers say there is too little financial support for farmers during the expensive process of winning organic certification.

Up to 80 per cent of organic products on UK supermarket shelves are imported - a "missed market opportunity"​ for British farmers according to Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

"There is a lot of discussion about whether we have the right kind of incentives for people who may have been interested in moving into organic farming,"​ she told The Observer . "There are others who argue that the structure of the incentives we pay is inadequate. We will look at this issue.

"There are also those who argue that if you look at the kind of support given to people elsewhere in the EU, we are in danger of placing organic farms at a competitive disadvantage."

The commission is designed to guide farmers hit by foot and mouth who are wondering whether to sell up.

Beckett insisted there was a "viable and prosperous future for British farming"​, adding that labour-intensive organic farming could create jobs.

The commission is not likely to endorse a target of turning 30 per cent of farms organic as proposed by the Soil Association recently, but is understood to accept that subsidies in other EU countries - where some farmers receive annual 'stewardship' payments of up to £700 a hectare for being organic - leave British farmers at a disadvantage.

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