Future sustainability of organic vegetable production in the UK: perception of the growers
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A study was carried out to investigate future sustainability of organic vegetable production in the UK based on perception of the vegetable growers. The objectives were to determine the economic and social sustainability of organic vegetables production and to examine whether there are any relationships between economic and social indicators. Data and opinions were collected by interviewing and through a postal questionnaire. Only 14% growers (26 out of 175) had replied by post. About 61% of the respondents had been farming in the conventional way before switching to organic and 39% growers started organic farming straightway. Those who started organic farming directly has significantly lower farm size (p<0.01). About 70% growers grew cereals in the conventional way but about 70% grew vegetables in the organic farming system. The respondent growers who switched from conventional to organic farming stated that they had given up conventional farming due to both economic and social related reasons but placed higher emphasis on economic reasons. However, social and environmental factors drove the growers much more than economic factors in switching to organic farming. Most of the growers were found to be satisfied with the productivity level of their organic vegetable production, profitability of their total farm business and the condition of market for their organic vegetables which was either increasing or staying the same. The respondent growers were asked to rank their opinions (1-very low and 5-very high) regarding threats to sustainability of organic vegetable production in the UK. A highly significant correlation (p<0.01) was found between economic and socio-environmental related threats. The interviewed growers will not give up organic farming and were not worried about a fall in price premium because of the assurance and larger size of the market for organic vegetables. The study reveals that organic vegetable production in the UK has the potential to be sustainable. This conclusion drawn here is solely based on growers own perceptions who in turn are limited in numbers. Therefore, to improve reliability and validity of the study of this nature, the sample need to be expanded to include more growers and other stakeholders such as by interviewing economists, government policy makers and non-governmental experts and incorporating their views along with growers’ perceptions.
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