Despite continued evidence highlighting strong growth in organic food markets, the British organic farming industry is becoming ever more concerned about its future.

Focusing on delivering the message about the superior quality of organic food will be paramount in convincing consumers to pay the necessary premiums that drive desirable margins.

Almost two-thirds of Britain's organic farmers (63%) rate their profitability as low or borderline, according to new research. A further 12% of farmers claimed their business is no longer viable at current prices, as Britain's organic farming industry becomes increasingly concerned about its future.

The survey of 1,144 organic farmers by Organic Farmers and Growers (OF&G), one of the UK's leading organic certification bodies, found that almost 90% of respondents expected to be farming organically in one year's time, but 30% were unsure whether they would still be doing so in five years.

More positive news emerged last week when the UK government announced that since it launched an organic action plan for the entire food supply chain two years ago, the country has seen a 46% rise in organic produce provided by UK farms. At the beginning of the year, 696,000 hectares of UK farmland was under organic production, up from 30,000 hectares in 1993.

On an equally upbeat note, more details have been released of the Organic Entry Level Scheme, which OF&G said may serve to reassure organic farmers about future levels of funding. Furthermore, as recently as June the European Commission announced a new action plan to promote the organic sector.

However, a key problem that needs addressing is that preconceptions of organic foods being of superior quality and taste are not always realised. The quality gap between consumer expectations and what is actually on the market suggests the onus is with manufacturers and retailers to develop more sophisticated product offerings that fully meet with consumers' sensory expectations.

Effective imagery and branding will become even more vital, especially in attracting new consumers to organic produce. In particular, effectively conveying the specific message about the quality of locally produced organic food is the key to ensuring a bright future for British organic producers.

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