The organic food craze is still at heart an industrial phenomenon, and is bumping up against some limits on non-industrial techniques. In Britain the growth of organic food sales has slowed dramatically; the demand is greater than ever, but the supply is topping out. A large part of the reason is that small organic producers are finding it difficult to adapt to the requirements of the industrial food chain:
Last week, after more than 30 years in organic farming, [Patrick Holden] was sacked by Sainsbury’s as a supplier for not reaching the supermarket’s ‘quality standard’. Holden had the comfort of being in the rarefied company of Prince Charles, whose contract with Sainsbury’s was terminated for a similar reason.
Holden says his experience exposes an industry in grave danger of becoming a victim twice over – it is a casualty of its own success and suffers from demands placed on it by the larger retailers intent on guaranteeing quality.
‘There is a damaging gulf growing between demand and supply for local, organic produce. But the issue is exacerbated by the fact that supermarkets are unintentionally making it impossible for small farms to supply them,’ he says.