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Organic food slump ends as sales start to rise again

It's boom time again for organic food in Scotland.

After four years of decline, new figures suggest that shoppers are now starting to buy more organic groceries.

According to the Soil Association, which certifies organic food, sales in Scotland have risen nearly 6% over the last year, with a 4% rise in the rest of the UK. The increase is attributed to growing disillusionment with conventionally produced food in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, which saw two men arrested last week. Improving economic conditions, better marketing and the arrival of new stores such as Whole Foods Market from the United States have also helped.

The latest figures, released today, show that in the 12 weeks to June 9, spending on organic food in Scotland was £13.4 million, against £12.7m in the same period last year. Spending in the rest of the UK for the same period has risen from £179.9m in 2012 to £187.4m in 2013. This follows four years in which total annual UK spending on organic food fell 22% from a peak in 2008.

Laura Stewart, director of the Soil Association in Scotland, said: "These figures prove people want to know where their food comes from and at the same time care about the environment."

One of the biggest rises over the last year has been in organic baked goods, up by 32%. Organic canned goods have risen by 21% and chilled convenience foods by 18%.

This month, the Soil Association is launching a campaign to promote organic food under the banner "small changes, big difference". Major UK supermarkets have signed up and will be promoting organic products in-store.

The organic sector has had "a rough ride", according to James Withers, chief executive of industry body Scotland Food & Drink. He said: "It will be good if we see something of a bounce-back … However, the latest figures also reflect a general rise in year-on-year retail sales, so it's probably too early to draw major conclusions."

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