This was the central question discussed at a Science-policy interface (SPI) Foresight workshop held in Aberdeen on 23rd May 2023.
The workshop, hosted by the VISIONARY project team (Dr. Katrin Prager & Dr. Shadi Hashem) at University of Aberdeen brought together fourteen stakeholders from the organic value chain, including farmers, advisory service specialists, certification bodies, NGOs, and policy makers from local and national levels.
The VISIONARY team presented the preliminary findings from the research undertaken regarding the challenges of the organic farming sector in Scotland.
The workshop successfully harnessed the enthusiasm and experience of participants to arrive at a shared vision of what changes are needed. Participants also outlined interventions needed to promote ‘sustainable’ transitions towards organic farming in Scotland, including market (demand) development, procurement, supply chains and policy alignment.
Some of the key points arising from the discussions at the workshop are:
- The need for more public leadership in designing and implementing coherent agricultural policies to vocalise government commitment towards organic sector development and explicitly communicate the role of organic farming in the broader national objectives around sustainable farming, specifically regarding net zero and biodiversity objectives.
- The future transitions to organic farming in Scotland will depend up on the capacity of the Scottish government to forge close partnerships among local governments, private sector, and farmers to improve public procurement at the local level. Both Government and local authorities and stakeholders must move beyond thinking that one size fits all (regarding quality specifications) to increase the share of organic food in public procurements.
- Effective and responsive policies require supportive and collaborative partnerships between Government and academic and research institutions/agencies to provide current data on the state of the organic sector through monitoring mechanisms and assess the effectiveness of policies and support schemes in meeting their objectives.
- Alternative value chains infrastructure (such as alternative distribution networks) are needed support the ‘niche’ organic producers and to help differentiate them from the large-scale ‘mainstream’ organic.
- More attention needs to be given to the development of public and private rural distribution networks, processing facilities (local certified abattoirs) suited to the needs of farmers, particularly in more remote rural areas.
- And finally, the development of organic value chain (processors, abattoirs and butchers) will depend on the market development and increasing demand for Scottish organics at the local, national and international markets.
The VISIONARY team will support future meetings of the participants who attended the Science-Policy Interface workshop and continue to work closely with the Scottish Organic Stakeholder Group.
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