Rural Economy Secretary announces fund to strengthen Scottish organics sector.
The Scottish Government will drive forward growth in the organics sector with a £50,000 development fund, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing announced today.
The fund will help deliver 'Organic Ambitions' – the industry's Action Plan for 2016-20, with an initial focus on developing innovative approaches to strengthening the Scottish organic supply chain.
The news comes on the back of the 2015 Organic Farming Statistics which were published earlier today.
The report indicated that the amount of organic land in Scotland fell by 7% in 2015, from 136,000 hectares to 126,000 hectares, and is now the lowest area since the 1990s, while the numbers of cattle, pigs and poultry that are certified organic have increased.
The Cabinet Secretary said:
"The supply and demand of organic food has a significant role to play in driving forward Scotland's rural economy, whilst contributing to protecting the environment. The Scottish Government is committed to developing this sector which is why I'm delighted to support it with the Organic Ambitions Fund. The aim is to strengthen and promote Scotland's organic food and drink supply chain through better partnership working.
"Organic spend in Scotland increased by 2.6% between February 2015 and January 2016, and around £52.6 million was spent on organic food and drink products in Scotland in the year up to 31 January 2016. There is clearly evidence of strong demand and potential to boost the rural economy, whilst at the same time enhancing Scotland's already stellar reputation for quality food and drink. I hope that this funding will help to improve on these statistics."
Chair of the Scottish Organic Forum, David Michie, said:
"This is excellent news. Funding of this kind is vitally important if we are to achieve the goals our national organic action plan sets out, and allow the organic sector in Scotland to thrive. The key is to ensure we connect every link in the organic chain, from supply through to demand: making sure farmers, growers, producers and processors are able to create the right amount and range of top-quality organic products here in Scotland.
"We're at an exciting turning point: the number of farm businesses converting to organic is already increasing, and the market for organic is on the up. This action will help both of these ends of the supply chain at this critical time, and after several years of contraction the organic sector needs some support to rebuild in a strong and resilient way. With this new development fund and continued effort and commitment from everyone involved, we have a real opportunity to build a strong future for organic in Scotland – bringing farmers and businesses more profits and individuals and families top quality Scottish produce."
The Organic Ambitions Fund for the financial year 2016/17 will open to applicants today (Monday 13 June) and will support one or more winning applications that can develop existing relationships within the organic supply chain and can identify and address critical gaps, and can demonstrate a proven track record of successfully developing, coordinating and delivering projects.
The deadline for applications is Friday 1 July 2016.
Applications for the Organic Ambitions fund can be made here: http://www.gov.scot/OrganicAmbitions
The Scottish Government worked with the Scottish Organic Forum (SOF) to develop and launch Scotland's first ever Organic Action Plan in 2011. The two joined forces again earlier this year to produce Organic Ambitions, Scotland's next Organic Action Plan.
The new industry-led action plan sets out a framework for the next five years and is centred on developments in knowledge, strength, skills and resilience, as identified as priorities after extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.
Organic production maintains national priority status and organic farming such as encouraging biodiversity, tackling climate change, improving soils and protecting our water environment.
The Organic Ambitions Fund 2016/17 will support one or more applicants from any of the following:
- Third sector organisations (voluntary organisation, charity or social enterprise)
- Public or private sectors
The winning project(s) must:
- Be able to start delivering by 18 July 2016
- Finish activity by 30 April 2017, final evaluation by 31 May 2017.