Various organisations from across the industry are urging the European Commission to extend derogations for organic pig and poultry which are coming to an end on December 31st. Due to tight supplies of organic proteins, farmers are currently allowed to feed their pig and poultry up to 5 per cent non-organic protein.

Without Commission intervention, that derogation will revert back to the original regulation which requires a 100 per cent organic diet. This will have severe consequences for the organic sector.

The reason organic pig and poultry producers have been allowed to use 5 per cent non-organic protein is due to a deficiency in organic protein, specifically Methionine, within raw material. A deficiency of this essential amino acid can result in a lack of immunity and therefore an increase of disease in pig and poultry.

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The organic poultry sector expanded by 10 per cent over the past year, making it the most popular organic farming sector in the UK, with organic poultry-meat and eggs commanding substantial price premiums.

I have never been much of a supporter of organic farming and have always considered it to be little more than a clever marketing ploy. Scientific analysis shows organic food is nutritionally the same as conventional food and scientists have regularly failed to substantiate claims that organic food somehow tastes better.

Despite that, some consumers are prepared to pay a premium for organic food. which they believe tastes better or is somehow healthier. Others naively think organic farming systems are somehow good for the environment because they use natural fertilisers or limited amounts of chemicals and medicines. Still, as the customer is always right, I don't suppose there's any harm in letting them pay through the nose for organic food.

Folk forget that the biblical famines occurred at a time when all food was produced organically, and that the great Irish and West Highlands famines in the mid-nineteenth century were as a result of crops being ruined by potato blight. Chemical sprays that control the disease didn't exist in those days so the farmers and crofters watched helplessly as their crops failed.

That's one of the snags with organic farming systems. Crop yields tend to be lower and there's always the risk of a crop failure due to disease, pests or simply becoming choked with weeds in a wet season. Crops like onions and carrots rely heavily on hand-weeding within the crop rows, which is expensive as it requires a lot of labour.

It's much the same with organic livestock systems. Animals can't be grazed as intensively and often don't grow as fast or yield as much milk.

The end result is that the output from organic farms is generally much less, with the added disadvantage that it is much more expensive to produce, so farmers need premium prices.

Scottish Government statistic released in May revealed that the area of organic land in Scotland fell four per cent in 2016, down to 122,000 hectares. Of this 2,300 hectares were still in the process of conversion to organic status.

This was the eighth consecutive fall in the area of organic land. The total area is now equivalent to 2.2 per cent of agricultural land in Scotland, compared to 2.9 per cent in the UK as a whole.

In 2002 almost eight per cent of agricultural land in Scotland was organic, nearly double the rate in the UK. But this fell sharply and by 2007 the rate was about four per cent, matching that across the UK, and since then Scotland has been below the rest of the UK.

The peak in the area of land with organic status in 2002 was mainly as a result of generous subsidy payments that encouraged hill farmers to convert their land to organic. Unfortunately sheep are a species that require vaccination against a range of deadly diseases, regular dosing with drenches to combat stomach worms or liver fluke, regular applications of pesticides to control parasites like sheep scab mites, blowfly maggots, lice and ticks. As a result they don't lend themselves readily to organic farming systems.

Hill sheep farmers soon stopped organic farming when the conversion subsidy payments came to an end, and that was one of the main reasons the area of organic land in Scotland declined so markedly.

Contrast Scotland's meagre 2.2 per cent of agricultural land being organic with the rest of the EU, where the percentage has been rising steadily, reaching 6.2 per cent in 2015.

That puts other EU countries in a favourable position to supply the growing demand for imports from UK supermarkets.