Sales of organic bread and bakery items have plummeted during the recession, according to the latest Organic Market Report.

Published today, by the Soil Association, the report revealed that bakery has been one of the hardest hit categories with sales down 39.8% during 2009. Organic biscuit sales fell by 19%.

Looking forward however, comparative figures for the year to February 2010 revealed the rate of decline in organic bread had been cut to 9.4%.

According to the report, bread sales fell due to a combination of the economic downturn and “problems with variable product quality”.

“A key concern for 2010 is the uncertain availability of organic flour and other ingredients after the negative impact of a wet summer on the 2009 harvest,” notes the report.

The overall sales of organic produce in the UK fell by 12.9% in 2009 to £1.84 billion. Despite the slump, the Soil Association has predicted a modest market expansion of 2-5% during 2010, in response to “clear signs of increasing confidence amongst consumers” after the toughest economic climate for 20 years.

The study also revealed that in addition to consumers spending less on organic food in the recession, leading retailers also reduced organic ranges and the shelf space designated to them. Waitrose was the least affected supermarket with its organic sales down only 3.5%.

Bread and bakery currently has a 3% share - worth an estimated £40.7m - of the total organic market.