THE UK organic market is now worth more than £2 billion, with sales in Scotland rising by nearly 20 per cent, according to a new report.

The Soil Association’s 2018 Organic Market Report reveals the UK market is now worth £2.2 billion, growing six per cent in 2017.

The market has now had six years of steady growth, with organic accounting for 1.5 per cent of the total UK food and drink market.

Sales of organic food in Scotland grew by 19.4 per cent in 2017, and account for 6.5 per cent of UK sales.

Scotland-based Soil Association licensees reported even bigger growth at 28 per cent, with interest in organic buoyed by strong government support through the Organic Ambitions plan, which is helping to raise public awareness. This strong growth looks set to continue, with 100 per cent of Scottish independent retailers expecting organic sales to maintain or increase in 2018.

Isla McCulloch of Soil Association Scotland, said: “Consumer research we carried out last year showed very clearly that people want to see organic become more available, both when shopping and eating out, with half of the people we spoke to saying they would choose a restaurant with organic and sustainable credentials over one without.

“This reflects a growing understanding of what organic really means – for health and for the environment – and is also influencing shopping habits as people put increasing importance on provenance and trust, values that organic delivers on. It’s also increasingly seen as the healthy choice, so it ticks a lot of boxes for the customer.”

This year has seen booming sales in independent retail and home delivery: expanding online ranges, and growing interest in box schemes, means these areas are now growing at a faster rate than supermarket, and between them account for almost 30 per cent of the organic market.

For producers, more interest in home delivery is a valuable opportunity to grow their business and to make the most of the increasing public interest in buying British and buying local.

Locavore run three small farms, a veg box scheme and a farm shop in Glasgow. Owner Reuben Chesters said: “Our box scheme has grown an awful lot in 2017, actually we’ve seen the fastest growth to date.

“I think this growth comes from our message: by being organic and local, and a social enterprise we tick quite a few boxes for environmentally conscious shoppers.”

The future for organic is looking bright.

With the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) now open for applications, more farmers can apply for support to convert their land to organic.

David Michie, head of farming and land use at Soil Association Scotland, said: “The AECS has some really attractive payment rates for farmers – and with a five year contract they provide some income certainty for Scottish farmers in these uncertain times.”