The promotion of organic foods looks unlikely to build much appetite for the People’s Choice Party

A bit of bad news for the Green Party can be found in the Daily Mail today. Things aren’t going too well for the organic food business in Britain.

When economic times are tough and spending money is short, consumers will opt for cheap rather than organic.

This news will come as a blow, too, to the People’s Choice Party, because it burst into life with a media release recently to extoll the virtues of organically grown tucker.

Alf was surprised at the time. He had forgotten all about the People’s Choice Party, which had been conceived in 1997 when Doug Wilson began a protest walk from New Plymouth to Wellington collecting signatures for a petition calling for the then Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys to impose a snap election.

Wikipedia reminds us that the party was officially registered on 14 May 1999 after declaring 1172 financial members.

It never gained much more than a smattering of support, and the last Alf heard from it was in 2009 when it stood a candidate in the Mt Albert by-elecion.

The candidate was a bloke called Rusty Kane and he mustered five votes.

Just last month the party banged out a media statement on the subject of Agricultural Change.

Alf could find not find the name of the spokesman who had issued the statement.

Whoever it was, he (or she) was blatting about the need to realize the world is moving towards organic agriculture.

Organic agriculture has become the fastest growing sector of the food industry. More and more consumers are switching to organic diets and more and more farmers are leaving behind their conventional farming methods to learn more sustainable ones. The demand for organic foods is overwhelming and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Among the benefits claimed was organic farming was –

Organic agriculture produces organic foods that can be sold for high prices which result to more revenues for the farmers. This is because they are currently in an economic state of scarcity. The demand for organic foods is exponentially more than the supply.

And then there was some stuff about providing consumers with a healthy alternative to traditional foods.

But it seems the sad bugger who wrote that lot will have to go back to the drawing board.

The Daily Mail in the UK says –

Farmers have started to turn away from producing organic food because of dwindling interest from supermarket chains, figures reveal.

Oh.

So organic farming is not spreading, then?

Well, no.

Land set aside for organic cultivation in the UK has fallen by two-thirds since 2007, according to data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Only 51,000 hectares were in ‘conversion’ – being prepared to go organic – across the UK last year, less than half the amount the previous year.

Even the higher figure for 2009 was massively down on 2007 which saw a peak of 158,000 hectares being moved across, according to The Guardian.

Oh dear. What has happened?

Ah. Here’s the explanation.

Demand for organic produce has dropped two years in a row as shoppers go for cheaper products because of the recession and higher food costs.

Figures from the Soil Association earlier this year put sales down 5.9 per cent from £1.84billion to £1.73billion.

This followed a 12 per cent drop in 2009 which brought to an end 16 years consecutive growth.

Declining interest is blamed on the harsh economic climate as families find they can no longer afford to spend so much on groceries.

As much as 10 per cent of the land dedicated to organic production has also gone, with the number of producers falling from 7,896 to 7,567.

Far to say, farmers are insisting that moving to organic has cut their costs and consumer interest is still strong outside the main supermarkets.

Maybe.

But if Rusty is standing again and wants to lift his vote to six – a challenge demanding a 20 per cent improvment on his 2009 result – organic farming is unlikely to do the trick.

One Response to The promotion of organic foods looks unlikely to build much appetite for the People’s Choice Party

  1. Rusty Kane says:

    Thanks for the advice Alf.. You did know The People’s Choice didn’t actually campaign in Mt Albert itself. They just put out a press release statement from New Plymouth about the need for citizen initiated referendum and money spent on the Mt Albert by-pass would be better spent on the regions roads. The leader of the party Rusty Kane when he did actually campaign in an electorate he came third with 756 votes when he stood in the New Plymouth electorate. Which was enough to oust the sitting Labour candidate and putting in Nationals candidate with just over 100 votes between them. Also it was I Rusty Kane who wrote the statement “Agricultural Change” which is a correct statement. Organic dairy farming has slowed a little lately but still growing in New Zealand. What more farmers are turning too now is biological farming, a mix of organics with today’s science. Because of it’s suitability for New Zealand farming.

    Support for biological farming systems conference
    Thursday, 18 August 2011, 1:55 pm
    Press Release: Rotorua Lakes and Lands Trust
    18 August 2011

    Tremendous response and support for the first national conference on biological farming systems

    The conference organisers have received a tremendous response and support for the first national conference on biological farming systems to be held on 27-28 October 2011 in Rotorua.
    The conference is organised by the Rotorua Lakes and Land Trust (RLLT) – a joint venture between Te Arawa Federation of Maori Authorities and Rotorua/Taupo Province of Federated Farmers.
    The theme of the conference is “Towards a Sustainable Farming – by farmers, for farmers”. The aim is to define the science that underlies biological farming systems to encourage adoption of environmentally friendly biological farming systems by mainstream farmers, if they wish to.
    “Arable resources, especially soil, affect all aspects of New Zealand life. These resources must be protected and nourished, and they will nourish the future generations of New Zealanders in return,” said Mr Malcolm Short, Chairperson of RLLT and also chairperson of conference organising committee.
    A number of scientists from crown research institutes and universities, and farmers from different parts of New Zealand are participating and sharing their knowledge and experiences at the conference.
    “Almost all crown research institutes and universities are participating in the conference, either presenting papers or attending as delegates. Representatives from a number of regional councils and some New Zealand government departments are also going to be present,” said Dr Guna Magesan, conference coordinator.
    “The conference aims to bring scientific and the biological farming communities (including organic and other alternative sustainable farming) closer to have a good, open discussion and share knowledge.”
    Mr Gifford McFadden, a Trustee of RLLT, said there is much interest in the farming community. The conference will provide a forum for discussion of a wide range of topics for current and future biological farming systems research, and will provide a forum for growing the status of biological farming in New Zealand.
    The programme will include one and a half days of technical sessions of oral and poster presentations; and a half-day field trip.
    There are six sessions in total. The sessions include: Biological farming and water quality; Soil carbon and ecosystems; Farmers – sharing their experiences; Defining farming systems; Panel Session: Scientists-Farmers Interaction; and Biological farming – a way forward.
    More than 150 dairy farmers, Maori land owners, soil and environmental scientists, politicians, ecologists, conservationists, land management specialists, consultants, and representatives from universities, research institutes, regional councils, fertiliser companies, analytical services, agricultural and horticultural businesses have shown interest in attending the conference.
    It appears that a target of 200, the maximum seating arrangement that has been made for conference dinner and field trip, will be reached very soon.
    The conference organizers have also received very positive response from a number of companies and organizations for sponsorship. Bay of Plenty Regional Council is sponsoring conference field tour.

    ENDS

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