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Soil Association reveals growth in organic sales

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organic salesTHE SOIL Association’s annual Organic Market Report has revealed that the organic sector has seen growth of 2.8% in 2013: the first time the organic market has seen annual growth since 2008.

Organic sales are growing slightly ahead of the overall grocery sales for 2013, which finished the year at around +2.1%. The 2014 Organic Market Report shows that the organic market is now worth £1.79billion. Those brands that carry the Soil Association logo have had an even stronger 2013, with growth of more than 5%.

And it seems this trend is set to continue in 2014, with organic sales for the first four weeks of the year seeing growth of +2.5% – way outperforming overall grocery sales, which were down -3.2%. Independent retailers have led the way with growth of almost 7% (6.9%) to almost £10million per week, indicating that more consumers are choosing to shop in smaller stores where they know they will find a wider choice of organic products. Online sales of organic continue to grow strongly with Ocado seeing an increase in sales of 10.4%. Supermarkets have seen some growth in the past year, with overall sales up 1.2%. However, Sainsbury’s – the country’s biggest organic retailer with 29% market share – saw a 7% increase in sales of its own-label organic products, closely followed by Waitrose who saw its organic sales increase by 6.5% – indicating other supermarkets are yet to capitalise on increasing consumer demand for organic.

Household names, such as Yeo Valley Organic, Green & Blacks and Rachel’s Organic are the most popular organic brands in supermarkets. Also seeing growth throughout 2013 are mail-order, home delivery and veg box schemes – up 11% on last year, with leading brands Abel & Cole and Riverford seeing a combined increase in sales of 17.9%.

The organic food market appears to be recovering across many different sectors, with meat, fish and poultry (+2.2%), vegetables (+3.4%) and dairy (+4.4%) all seeing positive growth throughout the year. This positive outlook is also reflected in consumer attitudes to organic and bodes well for the next 12 months, with 45% of organic consumers intending to buy more organic fruit and veg in the year ahead and 22% intending to buy more organic dairy in 2014.

Organic baby food continues to be a popular choice, with more than 50% of spending on baby food being organic. Four out of five households now buy organic produce, with shoppers under 34 stating they are willing to spend the most on organic products. The main reasons for choosing organic were it contains fewer chemicals and pesticides(37%), it’s natural and unprocessed (34%) and it’s healthier for me and my family (33%) – indicating a slight change in priorities for consumers from 2013, where it’s healthier for me and my family was the main reason for consumers choosing organic.

Speaking about the report, Rob Sexton, CEO of Soil Association Certification said; “To see the organic market showing such strong signs of growth, particularly when grocery sales as a whole are slowing, shows just how much potential there is in the organic sector. Both the growth in the organic market and the accelerating growth of products carrying the Soil Association logo further highlight the growing public demand for organic and food logos that they can trust. The message to supermarkets and other retailers and organic businesses is clear: if you make organic goods available and promote them well, consumers will respond by continuing to purchase the products they have confidence in.

“In addition research has shown that organic shoppers expect to buy more organic products this year than last so we have reason to be positive about the outlook for organic in 2014 and beyond. Now, the priority needs to be ensuring a greater choice of organic produce on shelves.”

Despite the continued demand from UK consumers, figures from Defra report that producer and livestock numbers and the UK’s organic land area decreased in the year to December 2012. The numbers of organic producers and processors also fell by 6.3% to 6,487. Currently around 3.5% (606,000 hectares) of the agricultural land area in the UK is organic.

Rob Sexton continued, “2013 has seen a decline in the amount of agricultural land in the UK that is organic and we know that many farmers are concerned about the profitability of organic. We have strong evidence to show that organic farming systems are at least as profitable as non-organic and we know that demand for organic is increasing amongst consumers. A serious injection of producer confidence is needed, in the shape of increased commitment from retailers and policy makers to help support existing organic farmers and grow the market in future, ensuring organic supply can meet increasing consumer demand.”

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Pembrokeshire’s ‘Pure West Radio’ celebrates sixth birthday

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THERE ain’t no birthday like a Pure West birthday! 

Pure West Radio – Pembrokeshire’s multi-award-winning radio station is celebrating its sixth birthday this month – and is ready to move up a gear when it starts broadcasting on DAB later this summer. 

Pure West, which now has a staff of 12, and a team of over 90 volunteers bringing news, sport, entertainment and information to the airwaves of Pembrokeshire, celebrated its sixth anniversary on April 4 – and decided to share its celebrations with its loyal listeners – giving no fewer than 1,100 of them free tickets to some top local events. 

For the Pure West Team the birthday was marked with a staff party at Seven Spice in Haverfordwest – but for listeners the treats were more varied. 

Pure West Radio joined forces with Ocky White Travel – itself celebrating a 60th anniversary – to give away a cruise holiday to one lucky winner. On April 3 nurse Ffion Thomas, from Johnston, was announced as the winner of the seven-day P&O cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. She is taking her mum along with her as a 60th birthday treat when the Iona sets sail from Southampton on May 18. 

And the giveaways didn’t stop there… Mark Edwards kindly shared 100 free tickets for a celebratory Silent Disco at Eddie Rocks, in Haverfordwest, that were snapped up within an hour – so a hundred more were released; Pure West Radio also teamed up with Hangar 5, also in Haverfordwest, and offered two one-hour free bounces for listeners, but again demand far outweighed expectations, so another hour’s bounce was provided. 

In addition, Pure West Radio joined forces with The Palace Cinema, in Haverfordwest, for a free showing of Shrek – the Movie – but, yet again, a second showing had to be booked to accommodate all those who wanted tickets. 

And sports fans haven’t been left out of the party – Haverfordwest County AFC, media partners of Pure West, have supplied 100 free tickets for the Bluebrids final home game of the season against Colwyn Bay to the broadcaster’s listeners. 

“Our birthday celebrations were immense,” said Toby Ellis, Station Manager, “We gave away 1,100 free tickets to local events to make sure our dedicated listeners and followers were able to join in the party… putting a smile on the faces of more than a thousand Pembrokeshire people. 

“And while the birthday celebrations are winding down – Pure West Radio – the only radio station based in Pembrokeshire – is gearing up for the next phase in our story. 

“The licence for DAB broadcasting is in place – and we hope to go live within the next few months. 

“We’ve expanded our staff and are currently looking for a full-time show producer – so anyone interested should email [email protected] to find out more, and we have some new sponsors – Ocky White Travel is now the official sponsor of Pure West’s daytime show and Folly Farm sponsors the breakfast show. 

“And we’ve teamed up with yet more Pembrokeshire businesses who are taking advantage of our huge reach to spread their message across the county. 

“There really is something for everyone on Pure West Radio – tune in via app, smart speaker and check out our website for the latest going on in Pembrokeshire, he added.” 

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The Harbourmaster: Special rail excursion draws crowds to Milford Haven

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MILFORD HAVEN witnessed an extraordinary event yesterday as a special charter train, operated by UK Railtours, made a unique visit to the town, drawing in 500 railway enthusiasts. Departing from London Paddington, the 13-carriage train, which included both first class and standard accommodations, travelled off the usual passenger routes to provide a scenic journey along the south Wales coast.

Starting the day with pick-ups from various locations including Slough, Reading, Swindon, and Bristol Parkway, the train ventured through the Severn Tunnel into Wales, showcasing a series of rarely used freight tracks. Notably, the locomotive switched at Newport to a pair of GBRf Class 66 freight engines, enhancing the experience for those on board by traversing tracks seldom seen by passenger services.

The journey took passengers through Cardiff, Bridgend, and Port Talbot Parkway, deviating at Court Sart Junction to follow the diversionary Swansea District line. The train paused at various locations including Llanelli and Haverfordwest, where passengers enjoyed a 90-minute break while the train was serviced.

A major highlight of the trip was the exploration of the seldom-visited Robeston branch, a treat for the rail enthusiasts who filled the train to capacity, necessitating a waiting list for hopeful travellers. The venture concluded at Milford Haven, where passengers disembarked for a photo session before the train commenced its return journey to London, including a final scenic pass via the Swansea Avoiding line and the Bishton flyover.

Local Councillor Nicola Harteveld of Milford Haven Town Council expressed delight at the influx of visitors, noting, “What an incredible sight at Milford Waterfront today with passengers enjoying our local scenery. It’s a testament to the unique charm and appeal of special rail tours.”

First class passengers were treated to The Great British Breakfast and a four-course dinner, while a buffet car served those in standard class, ensuring all passengers enjoyed their journey with comfort and style.

This tour, fully booked in all classes, underscores the continuing enthusiasm for unique rail experiences in the UK, combining a love for heritage rail with the exploration of less-travelled tracks. As the train made its way back to London Paddington, the participants reflected on a day filled with adventure and picturesque landscapes, leaving them with memories of a rare rail journey along the historic and scenic routes of Wales.

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29 homes planned for Pembrokeshire village development

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A scheme for 29 houses, including two affordable units, in the north Pembrokeshire village of St Dogmaels, close to the Ceredigion border, has been submitted to county planners.

Whitland-based Obsidian Homes Ltd, through agent Amity Planning, is seeking permission for the development and associated works on agricultural land off Longdown Bank, towards the south-east of the village.

A supporting statement says: “We have a clear vision for this development site to provide 29 much-needed houses for the area along with providing affordable houses which again are much needed within the region.

“The scheme provides affordable housing units for the local population as well as open market sale units all contained within the site. The affordable units, in terms of architectural style and materials used, are completely indistinguishable from open market tenure. Affordable properties are located alongside the open market sale units to ensure a cohesive and mixed community of new residents.”

The units proposed range from two to five-bedroom types, which the applicants say will “go a long way to meeting the stock required in the local area,” with seven per cent of them, two, affordable units.

The scheme submitted – within the settlement boundary for St Dogmaels – follows a 2022 pre-application inquiry, addressing issues of pedestrian connectivity, landscaping, the impact on the Welsh language, and the mix of housing, the applicants state.

The applicants conclude: “This development will act as a natural continuation of the village and provide much-needed housing stock for the area alongside affordable units meeting the needs of local community. This comprised of residential development for up to 29 dwellings, green / blue infrastructure including new areas of green space that will incorporate ecological mitigation and habitat creation, retained woodland and trees, sustainable drainage features, trim trail informal play and recreation space.

“Sustainable drainage and ecology will play a key role in this scheme and the attenuation features will become an attractive place for residents. All the main design elements of this application have been considered and incorporated into this proposal.

“The units proposed range from two to five-bedroom types and will go a long way to meeting the stock required in the local area. This, coupled with seven per cent affordable units, will create a community and foster relationships between this new development and St Dogmaels as a whole. These affordable units are located alongside the open market sale types and are architecturally indistinguishable from open market sale types.

“Extensive areas of existing woodland and significant trees have been retained and incorporated into a green swathe running along the eastern boundary of the site. These form the framework for the development, with residential blocks running in line with the sloping contours.

“A new public open space will feature buffering the development from the east. This will incorporate a range of informal play spaces as well as a small trim trail like walk for residents as well as featuring swales and attenuation features.

“The development will reflect the character of St Dogmaels in terms of scale, massing and the range of materials used. Materials used across the site reflect those found in the context of the site helping to form a natural urban extension to St Dogmaels.”

The application will be considered by Pembrokeshire p[lanners at a later date.

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