NOCC 16 – Reasons to be cheerful

Organic farmers and growers were given plenty of reasons to be cheerful at this year’s National Organic Combinable Crops conference, the largest on-farm event in the sector’s calendar.

Increasing demand for organic food and changes in consumer shopping habits mean there are greater business opportunities available for farmers than ever before, experts from the sector revealed.

Over 200 delegates from across the supply chain gathered at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate to hear that farmers should feel confident about investing in organic production, provided they understand their market and where opportunities for growth lie.

During a presentation session chaired by Farming Today and Countryfile presenter Charlotte Smith, Paul Moore of the Organic Trade Board said despite having a ‘bumpy ride’ in recent years, there were strong reasons for optimism in the sector.

In addition to growing global demand for organic produce, a new generation of shoppers in the organic sector had emerged, who brought fresh opportunities for producers in the sector.

And with global organic sales now worth about €50bn, and European sales accounting for a third of that, growers had to have confidence that the long-term consumer trends would continue to help the sector, he said.

Andrew Saunders, chair of the Waitrose Farming Partnership, said the challenge now for the sector was to address issues of availability, which meant encouraging more producers to convert to organic and ensuring growers responded to consumer demand.

With Waitrose accounting for 25% of total organic sales in the UK, he said the retailer was keen to work collaboratively with UK growers to shorten supply chains, limit risk, and ensure demand is met.

The talks were just two of a range of fascinating presentations at NOCC – which is now in its ninth year – from retail and industry experts on how the sector is performing, and where the future opportunities lie.

Delegates ranging from top organic producers to retailers, processors and non-organic farmers also heard from academics and scientists who gave them tips and advice on soil maintenance.

As usual, visitors took part in a farm walk, which this year gave them an insight into the National Trust’s largest organic farm, managed by Richard Morris.

“I think it’s a very exciting day. Lots of things for people to look at. Real life with organics is that we have some problems that we have to deal with, it’s about learning which is why I’ve been open about inviting NOCC here.”

Delegates were also treated to a fantastic meal of organic lamb, sourced from Wimpole’s flock of rare-breed white-faced woodland sheep, which accounts for 10% of the national flock. And as usual, there were also supplies of delicious organic cakes and breads.

We would like to thank all of those who helped us create such a fantastic event once again, particularly our host Richard Morris. We look forward to welcoming you to next year’s event, which will be hosted by Tom Liddell on his organic farm in Hampshire. Contact us for more details also about supporting the event. In the meantime you can save the date in your diary, Thursday 6 July 2017.

If you missed the event or want to catch-up with any of the presentations from the day, you can see the speakers’ presentations on our website

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