Organic Ambitions: Scotland's organic action plan 2016-2020

Developed by industry in close co-operation with the Scottish Government, the plan reflects the shared agenda for the sector.

Why does Scotland need an organic action plan?

Scotland has a worldwide reputation for high quality food and drink, but we face some key challenges. Farming is a high risk business: it needs greater resilience to counter ever growing financial and climatic challenges. Scotland's natural capital (biodiversity, soil, clean air and water), upon which all food production relies, is damaged or is under threat. Improvements could be made to conserve finite Scottish resources by enhancing resource-use efficiency in food production, and by reducing waste in the food supply chain. Scotland, for all its reputation as Land of Food and Drink, has one of the poorest diet-related health records in the world. For these reasons a greater development of sustainable food production and a greater public understanding of the consequences of food choices are essential for Scotland.

These challenges apply to all farming and food production systems, but organic farming, with its core values of environmental and social wellbeing, can have a particularly strong role to play in addressing them. The environmental and societal benefits of organic food and farming are widely acknowledged by experts. These benefits help achieve multiple policy objectives such as tackling climate change, improving soils, protecting our water environment and increasing biodiversity. However, despite these benefits, and the fact that organic farming is a national priority in Scotland, the area of land managed organically in Scotland is falling and the organic sector is not showing particularly strong growth (charts 1 and 2).

Chart 1: Organic land (as a percentage of all agricultural land) in Scotland, UK and Europe, 2002 to 2014

Chart 1: Organic land (as a percentage of all agricultural land) in Scotland, UK and Europe, 2002 to 2014 

Source: Scottish Government statistics 23 rd June 2015

Chart 2: Number of organic producers and processors, 2006-2014

Chart 2: Number of organic producers and processors, 2006-2014

Source: Scottish Government statistics 23 rd June 2015

There needs to be more effective communication of knowledge to buyers about why they should purchase Scottish organic goods. The Scottish organic supply chain faces serious challenges with respect to infrastructure and capacity, and needs to be strengthened. There are gaps in the skills base for Scottish organic production, in terms of advice, education, practical skills and research and these are impacting on the performance of the sector. Organic farming has excellent potential to help conserve and enhance Scotland's natural capital, and to build more resilient food systems, but optimisation of this is dependent on greater understanding of the relationships between farm management and natural capital.

Delivering an effective Scottish Organic Action Plan which addresses these challenges will encourage growth in the Scottish organic sector which will, in turn, help Scotland address wider social and environmental challenges. It will also add further economic value to the Scottish food and drink sector.

Organic Ambitions: Scotland’s Organic Action Plan 2016-2020


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