FARMERS ARE being urged to consider organic conversion to help meet the surge in demand for British organic food being driven by COVID-19.

Despite the challenges facing locked-down businesses, the Soil Association has highlighted that the organic market still looks set to surpass the £2.5bn sales mark by the end of this year, with organic sales rising significantly in March and April, outperforming non-organic. Some organic processors supplying into supermarkets experienced a 25% surge in sales as the lockdown took hold.

One side effect of COVID-19 has been to introduce a huge number of consumers to both online shopping and local sourcing, both market sectors where organic producers already prosper.

Farming business development manager at Soil Association Certification, Sophie Kirk, said: “COVID-19 has caused huge disruption for the whole farming sector, but it’s also presented opportunities. We are cautiously optimistic resilience in the organic market will continue. Organic products deliver many benefits shoppers may be looking for ‘post COVID’ – natural, healthy and tasty food and drink that’s been sourced and farmed with care.

"The integrity of organic during this time of great uncertainty is likely to be more important to many too – as well as the transparency of sourcing – including buying British, where possible."

But this surge in demand comes as the government prepares to overhaul farm payments in general post-Brexit, with Basic Payment Scheme farm payments being phased out over the coming years. As such, Ms Kirk said that there had 'never been a more pivotal moment for farmers to convert to organic' and prepare themselves for a future where both public demand and support would depend on environmentally careful production systems.