Review of the environmental and socio-economic barriers and benefits to organic agriculture in Scotland

Report of the research carried out by Harper Adams University, on behalf of the Scottish Government, into the environmental and socio-economic barriers and benefits to organic agriculture in Scotland.

3. SWOT analysis

An analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) for organic farming in Scotland was carried out. 

3.1. Methods

The SWOT analysis was compiled using commonly discussed topics from the REA together with some key findings from the Scottish Organic Action Plan Consultation (The Scottish Government, 2016), in which farmers, growers and consumers were consulted. (Detailed findings from the 2015 consultation can be found at: Key issues)

3.2. Results

The findings of the SWOT analysis are presented in Table 4.  The SWOT analysis was used to inform the stakeholder consultation that followed (see Section 4).

Table 4: SWOT analysis for organic farming in Scotland.






Production and market trends

-Increased demand for organic produce.

-Rise in number of Scottish certified organic processors.

-Decreasing area of Scottish land which is organic and in conversion (since 2011).

-Decreasing certified organic livestock and producers (since 2011).
-Yield gap between organic and conventional.
-Land tenure a barrier to organic production.

-Increased demand from consumers, retailers, wholesalers or the food service sector could drive organic production up.

-Young farmers most likely to diversify activities and produce organically.

-More diverse varieties and livestock genetics would benefit organic production.


-Higher margins in organic production.

-Larger organic farms have greater financial success.

-Organic premium doesn't always satisfactorily compensate farmers.

-Increased risk and uncertainty.
-Smaller organic farms have lower financial stability.

-Competitive ability of organic would improve with a carbon or pesticide tax (researchers found that overall energy use was lower in organic systems)


-Added value to the land through improved biodiversity and ecosystem services.

-Current AES measures do not account for organic farming improving environmental performance in simple landscapes and less so in more complex landscapes.

-Direct payments important to the financial viability of organic farms.

-Accounting for environmental and health externalities to reflect all aspects of produce.
-Greater value from AES could be gained through regionally targeted schemes.

-Continued investment in inefficient AES.

Supply chains

-Lack of consistent, cost-effective and reliable inputs for pest, weeds and disease control.
-Inconsistent availability of organic produce in shops and markets 

-Increased public procurement contracts opportunities could increase organic uptake by farms.
-Improved organic infrastructure could increase organic production.

Local economy

-Organic farms demand greater labour.

-Availability of labour and affordable rural housing for workers.



-"Essentially organic" farms have positive attitude towards organic but lack technical understanding.

-Improved access to training and advice could increase uptake in currently non-organic farms.


-Consumer trust in certification bodies and labels.

-Weak consumer awareness of difference between certification labels.

-Administrative and financial barriers to receiving organic certification on farms operating "organically" particularly small farms.

-An 'expectation gap' between organic certification and what consumers expect organic food to deliver.

Consumer behaviour

-Consumers willing to pay a premium.
Desire to support British farmers with fair prices.
-Consumers motivated by health, environmental concerns, animal welfare, social benefits and taste.

-Excessive price a barrier to consumption.

-Lack of awareness of complete benefits of organic farming.
-Expectation that organic produce is locally grown.

-A large occasional consumer base to be exploited.

-consumers may pick locally grown produce over organic produce


-Organic farmers more often perceive their farm as part of the natural environment.
-Biodiversity increased relative to conventional.
-Benefits greatest in simple landscapes.

Ecosystem services (ES)

-Non-marketable ES supported and increased e.g. flood control, pollination, natural enemies.
-Generally improved soil health characteristics (comparative to no-till management).

-Evidence of long-term depletion of soil phosphorus content.

-Target management of soil organic carbon to offset climate change potential.



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