Organic food and farming in Wales are set for a major boost - as two major organic events are held here next month.

The Soil Association, the UK's leading campaigning and certification body for organic food and farming, is holding its AGM in Wales for the first time, and the first ever Welsh Organic Farming & Food Industry Event is also taking place.

The AGM, which is being held in Cardiff on October 7, will have a distinctly Welsh theme. The afternoon session will involve a panel discussion covering current issues for Welsh food and farming, and the future of organic farming in Wales in the context of devolution.

The speakers will be: Carwyn Jones, Welsh Agriculture and Rural Development Secretary; Nic Lampkin, co-ordinator of the Organic Farming Unit, Welsh Institute of Rural Studies; Peter Segger, managing director of Organic Farm Foods Wales Ltd, and Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association.

The WDA Food Directorate is sponsoring the event, and is helping to source Welsh organic produce for a harvest supper after the AGM.

Soil Association director, Patrick Holden, commented: "It is entirely appropriate that the Soil Association's millennium AGM should be held in Wales, a country which has fostered some of the most stalwart pioneers of modern organic farming, and is home to some of our most successful organic businesses today.

"Furthermore the Welsh Assembly is to be congratulated on being the first devolved government in the UK to set a target to expand organic agriculture. The long term benefits to consumers, producers and the environment will repay their commitment."

Later in the month (October 27) The Welsh Organic Farming & Food Industry Event takes place at Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest.

This event - the first and biggest of its kind in the UK - aims to provide a window for businesses from within and beyond Wales to see exactly what's happening in today's Welsh organic farming and food sectors.

Also sponsored by the WDA Food Directorate, it will provide information and advice as well as giving delegates the opportunity to discuss, transfer and share best practice.

As well as the WDA Food Directorate, sponsors of the event include Horizon's Organic Dairy, Rachel's Organic Dairy, Sainsbury's and Pembrokeshire County Council.

WDA Agri-Food director, Wynfford James, commented: "With rapid growth in the organic market, this is a very exciting time for the organic sector in Wales.

"The Agri-Food Partnership's Organic Action Plan has set an ambitious target to make 10% of Welsh agricultural production organic by 2005. Wales has a natural advantage in meeting these targets, much of its food production is based on extensive systems, and through the National Assembly and Europe, farmers will have access to additional funding to help with conversion."

MORE DETAILS: Menna Davies, WDA Food Directorate PR executive, 01686 613175

SOIL ASSOCIATION AGM: Contact Emma Parkin, Soil Association Press and PR Officer, 0117 914 2448

WELSH ORGANIC FOOD & FARMING EVENT: Contact Helen Scourfield, conference Co-ordinator,
01437 779373