Sustain Bridging the Gap International policy case studies

Recognising the value of horticulture

Executive summary

This Bridging the Gap scoping report explores support for organic horticulture across the world as way to make organic produce more affordable.

Valuing the horticulture sector

Organic farming accounts for 3% of total land use in the UK, of which less than 30% is horticultural. The horticulture sector receives very little public money across the UK.

A horticulture strategy would bring gains for public health, for the environment and nature with more diverse and sustainably grown produce, for good jobs and enterprise in new businesses. Diversifying UK grown crops could also support culturally diverse communities negatively affected by the cost-of-living and climate crises. But despite the need, the horticulture strategy was suddenly dropped by the UK government in May 2023.

As well as support for existing horticulture farmers, we need support for new entrants and farmers making the transition, and more opportunities for training and skills development.

What were the findings?

The interventions and policies detailed in this report span the globe, suggesting there are universal enablers and obstacles in promoting sustainable agriculture, despite diverse operational contexts.

One key challenge is the struggle faced by smaller and organic growers to find a market for their produce that goes directly to consumers. Other hurdles include non-binding targets, voluntary mechanisms, a lack of concrete financial incentives and perceived low incentives.

Successful organic farming policies have collaboration at their heart, emphasising the need for unity among government bodies, industry representatives, and growers. Other contributing factors to success include access to organic fertilisers, financial assistance, government commitment, strategic planning and a gradual phase-out of conventional practices.

About this report

This report presents an outline of existing and potential interventions and policies aimed at strengthening the horticulture sector and/or facilitating a smooth transition into organic farming. For each intervention, the report highlights benefits, challenges, enablers and outcomes, as well as key takeaways and opportunities.

The interventions/policies included are as follows:

  1. Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) (Scotland): Financially supporting landowners transitioning to and maintaining organic farming practices.
  2. Organic Land Management (UK): Supporting organic farming through various grants under the umbrella of organic land management.
  3. Scotland’s Organic Action Plan (Scotland): Advancing organic farming in the country.
  4. National Strategy for Horticulture 2023-2027 (Ireland): Charting a sustainable and innovative course for the horticulture sector in Ireland.
  5. Farm to Fork 2020 (European Union): Achieving 25% organic farming on the EU's agricultural land by 2030.
  6. 100% Organic State (India): Transitioning the entire state of Sikkim, India, to 100% organic farming.
  7. Subsidy for Organic Input (South Korea): Promoting organic farming by subsidising the purchase of organic inputs.
  8. Organic Agriculture Act Amendment (Philippines): Legally recognising Participatory Guarantee Systems.
  9. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (India): Promoting organic farming through financial incentives and support for clusters of farmers.
  10. Organic Action Plan (Denmark): Doubling organic land area, sales, and export by 2030 through market-driven development and government funding.
  11. Coles Nurture Fund (Australia): Increasing the availability of organic fresh produce in Australia through grants to innovative growers.

This simple traffic light system is used throughout to illustrate how well each policy/intervention adheres to Bridging the Gap’s main aims: increasing organic supply and increasing access.

Organic Access

No mention of organic

Some mention of organic

Strong mention of organic

No mention of increasing access 

Some mention of increasing access 

Strong mention of increasing access 

 

Deep dive: Interventions & policies

 

UK policies

 

Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS)

KEY FACTS

NOTES

Location: Scotland

Date: 2023

Type: Incentive

Owner: Scottish Government

Ask: Scotland's "Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS)" financially supports farmers transitioning to and maintaining organic farming practices, aiding both conversion and maintenance of organic status.

One significant accomplishment of the program is the management or conversion of 52,258 hectares to organic farming, funded by a £15.8 million budget during the 2015-18 period.

 

Organic Land Management

KEY FACTS

NOTES

Location: UK

Date: 2016-Present

Type: Incentive

Owner: UK Government

Ask: The UK supports organic farming through various grants under the umbrella of organic land management.

This funding initiative covers different types of land and agricultural practices; categories include improved permanent grassland (£20 per hectare), unimproved permanent grassland (£36 per hectare), rotational land (£132 per hectare), horticulture (£471 per hectare), top fruit (£1,920 per hectare), and enclosed rough grazing (£69 per hectare). These are available for land registered as ‘fully organic’ or ‘in conversion’ (depending on the scheme) by a Defra-licensed organic control body.

In March 2023, the Welsh government was considering an increase in payments for organic farming - a 25% rise in payments under the Countryside Stewardship. However, in August, there was a shift in plans, with the current decision set to withdraw £3.1 million from Wales’ nature-friendly farming support.

 

Scotland’s Organic Action Plan

KEY FACTS

NOTES

Location: UK

Date: 2016-2020

Type: Plan

Owner: Scottish Government

Ask: A strategic initiative by the Scottish Government to advance organic farming in the country

The plan outlines various actions aimed at promoting organic farming practices, including the development of accessible online resources for organic farming and agroecological research. Additionally, it emphasizes the provision of training and employment opportunities within the Scottish organic supply chain.

In 2022, the Scottish Organic Stakeholder’s Group demanded the development of a new Organic Action Plan for Scotland. Proposals include financial assistance for transitioning to organic farming — around £8.6 million annually to achieve the government's goal of doubling organic farmland — alongside a one-off £5 million fund to support initial transition costs towards organic food procurement in the local public sector, and the development of markets and processing facilities to enable this.

 

International policies

 

National Strategy for Horticulture 2023-2027

Strong mention of organic

Some mention of increasing access

KEY FACTS

  • Location: Ireland
  • Initiated: 2023
  • Type: Guidance
  • Owner: Dept of Agriculture Food and the Marine
  • Aim: Charts a course for a more profitable, innovative, and sustainable horticulture sector.
  • Mechanism: Stakeholder-led plan that incorporates organic throughout.

BENEFITS

CHALLENGES

Improved consistency of supply: aims to maximise organic production systems, which can lead to more consistent and reliable supplies of organic horticultural products.

Market access for smaller and organic growers: provides support for growers to market directly to consumers and local restaurants.

Strengthened education and talent attraction: seeks to modernise horticulture education and attract talent to the industry.

Better data and insights: collecting and using data can lead to more effective and evidence-based policies.

Consumer awareness: the use of "Buy fresh, local and in-season/organic" as the key message in state and EU-funded campaigns can increase demand for local and organic horticultural products, benefiting growers and the whole industry.

Marketing support for smaller and organic growers: smaller and organic growers face challenges in marketing their products directly to consumers and local restaurants.

Scheme suitability: the Producer Organisation scheme may not suit small/organic grower needs, requiring a re-evaluation of existing schemes.

ENABLERS

OUTCOMES

Collaboration: collaboration between various stakeholders, including DAFM, Bord Bia and organic and smaller growers, is essential for implementing key strategic actions.

Scheme review: success depends on the review of the Producer Organisation scheme and the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector from the perspective of smaller growers.

Educational institutions and government departments: agricultural colleges, Teagasc, universities, the Department for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science must be willing to modernize horticulture education and training.

Increased sales turnover: demonstrates an increase in sales turnover for participating growers, with total sales turnover of organic horticulture increasing by 112% between 2017 and 2020.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BTG

BtG can take the strategy as guidance to influence UK horticulture strategy.

 

Farm to Fork Strategy

Strong mention of organic

Some mention of increasing access

KEY FACTS

  • Location: EU
  • Initiated: 2020
  • Type: Regulation
  • Owner: European Commission
  • Aim: 25% of the EU’s agricultural land to be under organic farming by 2030.
  • Mechanism: Require each nation to produce national action plans for organic development.

BENEFITS

CHALLENGES

Promotion of organic farming: sets ambitious targets for increasing the share of agricultural land under organic farming to at least 25% by 2030.

Reduced pesticide and fertiliser use: aims to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50% and lower fertiliser use by 20%, which can lead to reduced environmental impact and healthier ecosystems.

Stimulating demand for organic products: the organic action plan under the strategy includes measures to stimulate the supply and demand for organic products.

Increased consumer trust: the action plan focuses on stimulating demand and ensuring consumer trust in organic products, which can lead to increased consumer confidence in organic farming.

Non-binding targets: targets set for increasing organic land use are non-binding for farmers, which may make it challenging to achieve the 25% organic production goal by 2030.

Voluntary mechanisms: mechanisms for farmers to reach the goals through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) remain voluntary in member states' CAP Strategic Plans, which may limit the effectiveness of the strategy.

Lack of financial incentives: the EU public consultation process identified insufficient financial incentives for producers to convert to organic production as a major obstacle.

 

ENABLERS

OUTCOMES

National action plans: each EU member state is expected to produce national action plans for organic development, which is essential for implementing the strategy and achieving the 25% organic land target.

Success of eco-schemes: success will largely depend on the outcome, review, and implementation of the CAP strategic plans starting in January 2023.

CAP policies of Germany and Sweden (chosen examples) have incorporated organic targets.

The German government has committed to reserving 20% of eco-scheme (CAP) funding for organic farming.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BTG

BtG might want to call for such commitments where they are accompanied by dedicated funding to resource such a transition.

 

Sikkim Organic Mission

Strong mention of organic

Some mention of increasing access

KEY FACTS

  • Location: Sikkim, India
  • Initiated: 2005
  • Type: Regulation
  • Owner: Regional Government
  • Aim: To become 100% organic.
  • Mechanism: The creation of village clusters for organic farming.

BENEFITS

CHALLENGES

World's first organic state: Sikkim became the world's first 100% organic state, achieving this remarkable status by transitioning all of its 66,000 farmers to certified organic practices.

UN recognition: Sikkim received the Oscar Award for Best Policies from the United Nations for its commitment to achieving 100% organic farming.

Reduction in crop yields: some farmers who transitioned to organic farming experienced a decline in crop yields. For example, ginger production decreased significantly, and farmers faced challenges due to fungal diseases affecting their crops.

Insufficient organic inputs: many farmers lacked adequate access to organic manure and inputs (government-owned farms were better stocked with bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides than private farmers).

Marketing and regulation: Sikkim faced difficulties in marketing its organic produce. Organic food grown in the state competed with cheaper conventional food from neighbouring regions, creating disadvantages for local farmers.

Change in government approach: changing government leadership (2022) has led to concerns about the future of Sikkim's organic mission.

Monocultural production: the focus of the programme is on monocultural organic production; this is not in line with agroecological practices and may override the desires of farmers.

ENABLERS

OUTCOMES

Government commitment: the Sikkim government played a central role in promoting and implementing the transition to organic farming, introducing policies and initiatives to support the shift.

Gradual phase-out: the gradual phase-out of agrichemicals, along with the state's organic road map, contributed to the success of the transition.

Training and infrastructure: the government invested in training farmers in organic farming methods and built infrastructure, including composting facilities and facilities for organic seedling production.

Existing culture: the state benefitted from having an existing farming culture similar to organic, easing the transition.

Improved water quality: since transitioning to organic agriculture, there has been a marked increase in water quality in Sikkim, with positive implications for the environment and public health.

Tourism boost: improved environmental conditions and the state's organic status have contributed to a significant rise in tourism, with the number of tourists increasing by over 50% between 2014 and 2017.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BTG

Sikkim shows how agrichemicals can be phased out gradually.

 

Subsidy for organic input

Strong mention of organic

Some mention of increasing access

KEY FACTS

  • Location: South Korea
  • Initiated: 1999
  • Type: Incentive
  • Owner: Korean Government
  • Aim: To tackle environmental problems faced by both livestock and agricultural sectors.
  • Mechanism: Abolished subsidies for chemical fertilisers in 2005 and introduced a subsidy for purchasing organic inputs.

BENEFITS

CHALLENGES

Promotion of organic farming: the policy encourages the adoption of organic farming practices by subsidising the purchase of organic fertilisers and soil conditioners.

Environmental benefits: the transition from chemical fertilisers to organic inputs helps reduce environmental problems associated with livestock waste, soil erosion and acidification caused by inorganic fertilisers.

Economic support for farmers: farmers receive discounted prices for organic fertilisers through the subsidy program, reducing their input costs and potentially increasing their profitability.

Eligibility changes: changes in the eligibility criteria for receiving subsidies, such as the restriction on tenant farmers without secure rental arrangements, can negatively impact certain segments of the farming population.

Supply of organic inputs: a consistent and reliable supply of high-quality organic fertilisers and soil conditioners is crucial to meet the demand created by the subsidy program. South Korea has been exploring schemes that convert food waste to meet part of this demand.

ENABLERS

OUTCOMES

Government support: continuous government support has been crucial for the programme’s success.

Budget allocation: between 2003 to 2017 the subsidy program increased its budget from 21 to 160 billion KW, while the subsidy rate rose from 750 to 1600 KW per a 20kg package.

Organic farming expansion: the subsidy program has contributed to the expansion of certified organic farming in South Korea, with the certified organic area increasing by 29.7% from 2014 to 2020.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BTG

The programme provides interesting examples such as a subsidy for organic inputs and food-waste-to-compost scheme.

 

Organic Agriculture Act Amendment to recognise PGSs

Strong mention of organic

Some mention of increasing access

KEY FACTS

  • Location: Philippines
  • Initiated: 2010/ Amended 2020
  • Type: Legislation
  • Owner: National Government
  • Aim: Address rural poverty through low-input sustainable agricultural techniques that improve land productivity and protect the environment.
  • Mechanism: The law now recognises Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGSs) as a credible way to certify organic produce.

BENEFITS

CHALLENGES

Inclusive Organic Agriculture law: the amendments to the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, signed into law as Republic Act 11511, recognises the role of small farmers in ensuring safe, affordable, and accessible food. This benefits small farmers who were previously restricted from labelling and marketing their produce as organic due to the certification requirements.

Recognition of Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS): RA 11511 addresses the concern of small farmers by recognising Participatory Guarantee Systems as a credible and affordable way to certify organic produce.

Rural poverty alleviation: the legislation is part of the government’s efforts to address rural poverty through low-input sustainable agricultural techniques. It aims to improve land productivity and protect the environment.

Flaws in implementation: criticisms and concerns about implementation include limited support for production, post-production, and marketing, as well as the perceived expensiveness and stringency of the organic certification and regulatory requirements.

ENABLERS

OUTCOMES

Government support: the government's prioritisation of the organic agriculture sector and its commitment to amending the law to make it more inclusive have been key enablers.

Expansion of organic farming: since the inception of the National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP), the agricultural area devoted to organic farming in the Philippines has significantly increased from 14,140 hectares in 2006 to 349,041 hectares at the end of 2016, benefiting both producers and consumers.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BTG

Recommendations might explore similar approaches to facilitating certification for small farmers.

 

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)

Strong mention of organic

Some mention of increasing access

KEY FACTS

  • Location: India
  • Initiated: 2015
  • Type: Funding
  • Owner: Government of India under the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)
  • Aim: Promote organic farming
  • Mechanism: Involves clusters of 50 or more farmers cultivating organic farming on 20 ha or 50 acre land for three years, receiving financial incentives for inputs, value addition, and marketing.

BENEFITS

CHALLENGES

Promotion of organic farming: the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) promotes commercial organic production through certified organic farming, benefitting both the environment and consumer health.

Pesticide residue-free produce: ensures that the produce is pesticide residue-free, contributing to improved consumer health and safety.

Increased farmer income: aims to increase farmers' income by reducing the cost of cultivation and providing financial assistance for organic farming practices.

Market creation: the production of organic products creates a potential market for traders, encouraging more involvement in the organic sector.

Natural resource mobilisation: motivates farmers to mobilize natural resources for input production, reducing their reliance on external inputs.

Cost reduction: the adoption of organic farming leads to cost savings for farmers by reducing the need for purchased fertilisers and pesticides.

Initial yield reduction: organic farming may lead to a slight reduction in crop yields initially, which could be a challenge for farmers accustomed to conventional agriculture.

Farmer awareness: many farmers may not be aware of the complete procedures involved in the adoption of PKVY, which can hinder their participation in the program.

Fund release delays: delay in the release of funds from state governments can be a constraint in the effective implementation of the program.

Low incentives: some farmers may find the incentives to be too low to encourage a transition to organic farming.

Inflexible guidelines: the scheme needs more flexibility to adapt to local situations and state requirements.

 

ENABLERS

OUTCOMES

Cluster formation: the success of the program depends on the formation of clusters of 50 or more farmers with 50 acres of land each.

Training and capacity building: training of cluster members and lead resource persons is essential for the successful adoption of organic farming practices.

Certification: encourages the adoption of Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification through a cluster approach, requiring training and certification expenses.

Financial assistance: farmers are provided financial support for various aspects of organic farming, including seed to harvesting and transportation of produce.

Reduction in cultivation costs: leads to immediate cost savings for farmers, as they reduce the use of purchased fertilisers and pesticides.

Increased net returns: due to cost reductions, farmers experience increased net returns, ranging from 20% to 50%.

Price premium: some clusters, especially those near large cities and with good market linkages, can command a price premium for their organic produce, further benefiting farmers.

Potential for area expansion: the program has the potential to expand organic farming in tribal, rainfed, hilly, and remote areas.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BTG

This example highlights the potential of demonstration farms/clusters of farms to share good practice in farming and showcases the various levels of support that will be required.

 

Danish Organic Action Plan

Strong mention of organic

Some mention of increasing access

KEY FACTS

  • Location: Denmark
  • Initiated: 2011-2020 (updated 2015)
  • Type: Regulation
  • Owner: National Government
  • Aim: Set out objectives to double organic land by 2020.
  • Mechanism: Focussing on both supply and demand side policies.

BENEFITS

CHALLENGES

Promotion of organic farming: aims to double the organic land area, sales and export by 2030.

Policy stability: Denmark has demonstrated a long-term commitment to organic agriculture, with common long-term strategies and accepted targets, even with changing governments.

Conversion support: the Danish government offers organic conversion checks free of charge to farmers considering converting to organic production.

Market-driven growth: emphasises market-driven development of the organic industry, including the vital role of supermarkets.

Reliance on market demand: while market demand is a significant driver for organic farming, relying solely on market forces may not always align with environmental or sustainability goals.

Administrative challenges: there were challenges introducing administrative tools to calculate organic shares for public and private sector customers certified under the organic cuisine label, but this was crucial for program success.

ENABLERS

OUTCOMES

Government funding: government funding has played a key role in developing organic marketing capacities and structures for market coordination, enabling successful implementation of organic growth plans.

Collaboration: collaborating with associations like Organic Denmark — which has expertise in working with market actors and coordinating market efforts — has been instrumental in achieving policy goals.

Growth in organic farming: since Denmark's Organic Action Plan was adopted in 2011, the organically farmed area has grown by 57%, and sales of organic products have more than doubled.

Increased procurement in public-sector kitchens: The program to increase procurement of organic food products in public-sector kitchens has led to significant growth in sales of organic products (approximately 170%).

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BTG

BtG could explore demand-side policies by collaborating with supermarkets.

 

Coles Nurture Fund

Some mention of organic

Some mention of increasing access

KEY FACTS

  • Location: Australia
  • Initiated: 2015
  • Owner: Coles, supermarket chain
  • Type: Grant – $50 million
  • Aim: To increase the availability of organic fresh produce for customers.
  • Mechanism: Providing grants to innovative growers in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland who are implementing plans to improve sustainability and grow Australia’s organic fresh produce industry.

BENEFITS

CHALLENGES

Eligibility criteria: to be eligible, businesses must demonstrate that they are seeking funding for a project which is unique, drives innovation and provides sustainability benefits.

Long-term impact: sustaining the program's impact over the long term with ongoing funding and support (while preventing dependency on the fund) is a potential concern.

ENABLERS

OUTCOMES

Financial support: producers can apply for a grant of up to $500,000.

Aimed at smaller farmers: supports small scale organic farmers who may otherwise not been able to afford upgrades.

SME support: since 2015, the fund has offered more than $36 million in financial support to 100 small and medium-sized businesses.

Organic/ethical-specific case studies:

Peninsula Fresh Organics
Award amount: $300,000

Used for: infrastructure installation.

Mt Alma Organics
Award amount: $300,000

Used for: equipment for washing, grading and sorting produce.

Agriculture Networks
Award amount: $189,000

Used for: fast-track access to organic fresh produce in key growing regions through a new dedicated organic certified packing and distribution facility at Gatton.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BTG

BTG may want to consider engaging the private sector to support with grant delivery.

 

Innovation Strategy (Proposal)

KEY FACTS

NOTES

Location: UK

Date: 2021 (July)

Type: Plan

Owner: National Food Strategy, NFU

Ask: The National Food Strategy proposed the development of an Innovation Strategy that prioritises “farmer led” approaches, with priorities including agroecological farming and horticulture through comprehensive investment programs.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) launched a horticulture growth strategy which set out ten critical building blocks necessary for growers to develop and build the sector.

Despite initially committing to the proposal, DEFRA revoked their commitment in May 2023 to prioritise “policy work that maximises impact (such as) establishing the seasonal worker visa route, the labour review, automation, the Farming Innovation Programme and the Farming Investment Fund and working across Government on energy support and planning.”

This decision has been met with disappointment, particularly given the challenging state of the horticulture sector, including soaring production costs and severe labour shortages.

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