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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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Controversial windfarm on edge of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park refused

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YET again, the ill-sited Rhoscrowther windfarm on edge of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has been refused consent, much to the joy of campaigners

The Chair of Pembrokeshire Branch of The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW), Mary Sinclair, has responded with relief to the decision by Julie James, the Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, to refuse planning permission for the Rhoscrowther windfarm on the Angle Peninsula, on the edge of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

The Branch’s detailed objection (below) catalogued a 25-year sequence of 15 various proposals, appeals and decisions on or near the site, every one of which ultimately resulted in refusal of consent.

Mrs Sinclair said: “This must surely now be the end of developers’ misplaced attempts to industrialise this cherished landscape, and to desecrate the setting of the Angle Conservation Area, whose inhabitants can now look forward to freedom from such schemes.

“The decision justifies CPRW’s persistent argument that wind turbines are out of character with the landscape and visual qualities within and adjacent to this narrow National Park – which needs – and has – the highest level of protection.”

She added: “Nevertheless, we support the development of far-offshore wind resources in the Celtic Sea as a more realistic way to address the impacts of Climate Change – it is now high time that developers transferred their efforts to this purpose”.

Following an online Hearing under the new procedure by Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) the Inspector’s Report also agreed with CPRW’s Hearing Statement (below) that industrial scale (126m = 413ft) turbines could not be justified in this location because of the nearby oil refinery.

The applicants’ attempt to down-play the adverse impact of the rotating blades on the Grade 1 listed St Decumanus church was also countered by the Inspector who concluded that ‘the visual change in the tranquil and peaceful setting of the church would result in a substantial level of harm’.

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Fflecsi Pembrokeshire bus service is set to expand

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TRANSPORT FOR WALES (TfW) is expanding the fflecsi service in Pembrokeshire, allowing more communities across the county to benefit from demand responsive transport.

Working in partnership with Pembrokeshire County Council, the new fflecsi zone replaces the current 315 bus service and will connect villages and hamlets in the Dale Peninsula to Milford Haven and Haverfordwest – integrating with wider public transport routes.

The expansion begins on Monday 30 January and will link up with the highly successful fflecsi service in north-west Pembrokeshire, which has seen an increase in passenger demand since it began operating in September 2020.

Together, the two zones will cover a large portion of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, offering visitors to the area an accessible, environmentally friendly transport alternative to some of the county’s most popular destinations, including the Wales Coastal Path.

TfW also supports the operation of the fflecsi Bwcabus service, which connects rural villages in central Pembrokeshire to Haverfordwest, Fishguard and its ferry port, as well as operating zones which serve parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

fflecsi Pembrokeshire is a demand responsive bus service which does not have a fixed route and timetable but an operating zone which enables passengers to be picked up and dropped off anywhere within that fflecsi zone.

Rather than passengers waiting at a bus stop for a bus to turn up, they can book a journey in advance using the fflecsi app, or by calling 0300 234 0300.

Passengers are informed where to catch the bus and at what time it will be arriving – the pick-up point will be near as possible to the location of the passenger.

Andrew Sherrington, Head of Bus Network and Service Development, said: “fflecsi has grown to become a dependable public transport choice in rural Pembrokeshire and its expansion will now allow more people across the county to access the service for everyday journeys and to make important travel connections.

“Passenger numbers continue to grow and in August and September of this year, figures were more than double what they were for those months in 2021.

“We know that fflecsi is highly valued by the rural communities it serves across Pembrokeshire, and it is a vital part of TfW’s commitment to providing a multi-modal transport network that encourages more people to make use of public transport.”

Rhys Sinnett, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services for Pembrokeshire County Council said: “This is a really positive intervention by the County Council in order to protect a service for rural passengers in this part of the county and ensure that they continue to have access to key urban areas.

“The fflecsi Pembrokeshire scheme has proved extremely popular in the north of the county both for tourists and local people and we hope to see this success maintained when the new zone is introduced.”

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Grant to renovate a community swimming pool in Cardigan

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CARDIGAN Memorial Swimming Pool and Hall have received a Capital Grant to undertake much needed renovation work.

The Sport Wales Capital Grant of £207,000 from Welsh Government was secured by Ceredigion County Council to fund essential capital works at Cardigan Memorial Swimming Pool and Hall.

The grant will enable the Swimming Pool to upgrade its Pool Plant Equipment and Air Handling Unit, insulate the roof above the toddler pool and purchase new Pool covers.

Matt Newland, Chairman of Cardigan Memorial Swimming Pool and Hall Trustees, said: “The swimming pool and hall trustees are delighted to announce that we have received a grant from Sports Wales to carry out much needed works to the pool to enable it to continue running. The trustees would like to thank Ceredigion County Council for their assistance and support. Cardigan Swimming pool and hall is run by the trustees committee for the benefit of the community. It is an essential resource and this grant will help secure our future.”

Katie Proven, the newly appointed manager of the centre also welcomed the news: “This investment will help us make much needed efficiency savings, reducing our energy costs and environmental footprint. This is excellent news for the people of Cardigan”

Councillor Catrin M.S Davies, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Customer Services, said: “Ceredigion’s leisure facilities which are run by the community are an important part of the opportunities available for our residents to be active and have fun as a family, group of friends or individually. By working together, Cardigan Memorial Swimming Pool and Hall and the Council have secured a significant investment that will enable the pool to continue to contribute to improve the health and wellbeing of the residents in the county.”

More information on the plans can be seen on Ceredigion County Council’s website: https://council.ceredigion.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=148&MId=291&LLL=1

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