Sales of organic foods to leading supermarkets in Britain are struggling, suggesting that when recessionary conditions hit shoppers are ready to sacrifice their green credentials in favour of cheaper food. According to TNS World-panel data, sales of organic produce at Sainsbury's fell by 3.8 per cent and at Tesco by 1.3 per cent in the three months to early August. Spending on organic produce in the whole market has fallen by 19 per cent from £100m to £81m this year.
Organic agriculture is inherently more expensive than intensive agriculture. However, the Soil Association insisted that what was happening was a plateau rather than a reversal. Year-on-year average growth over the last decade has been 25 per cent.
It is interesting that organic egg sales have taken a particular hit, falling by 18 per cent in the four weeks to end of August. Consumers think that they can still be ethical by buying free range eggs.
These market developments could offer an opening for Integrated Crop Management which offers a route to more environmentally friendly farming without going organic. It is, of course, remarkable how tolerant consumers are of the use of so-called 'traditional' compounds by organic farmers, but they may not be aware of their use. 'Organic' has certainly embedded itself in the public consciousness with a very favourable image.