The future of the organic farming industry in Wales is under threat because supermarkets are importing cheap overseas produce, according to a BBC Wales investigation. Many organic farms may be forced to close unless the major UK retail chains start to pay more for home grown produce.
The BBC report said that the Welsh Assembly wants 10 per cent of Welsh farming to be organic by 2005, but the evidence suggests that the number of organic farms is likely to decline over the next three years, not increase.
Ceredigion farmer Matthew Fordham told the BBC that he has difficulty getting his produce into stores because the retail giants can buy more cheaply and in greater volume from heavily subsidised growers overseas. He said he is forced to throw away almost 40 per cent of his produce even though it is good enough to eat.
"Vegetables are looked at from the supermarkets' point of view in a superficial way," he said. "It's practically as if we're trying to put our vegetables on parade, like a beauty pageant. That's not what organic vegetables are about."
The BBC report also claimed that the UK government's Rural Recovery Co-ordinator, Lord Haskins, has questioned the ability of organic farming to satisfy the food market. He spoke last month in favour of genetically-modified (GM) crops as an important component in future efforts to feed a growing world population.
Although Lord Haskins supported the idea of subsidies for environmentally-sensitive farming methods, he said a fully organic approach could never feed the world's population. "Organic farming is much less productive than conventional farming. There would be less food available and food prices would soar. It would lead to economic and political collapse in much of the developing world."