According to Kathryn Roche of Irish Country Meats, Irish organic lamb currently accounts for less than 1% of the national kill.
The processor supplies 30% of its organic produce to the domestic markets, while it exports the remainder to countries including Germany, France, and Belgium to wholesalers and retailers.
Irish organic lamb
She told Teagasc’s organic beef open day that demand for Irish organic lamb exists, but the seasonality of supply is a limitation.
She explained: “It is very difficult to offer a very credible 52-week offering to our suppliers. It is not that there is a lot more to it.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of lambs are being lost to the conventional trade, whereas they are being sold from the single organic producer, and when they are brought through to the store trade, they are being lost to that conventional market.”
“That is where we are seeing a huge loss at the moment. It would be great to get new people in as well, but to keep them organic lambs as organic right through to the end level, to the processor and onto shelves.”
Roche stated that Ireland has adequate processing facilities for organic lamb and both of their plants are in a position to engage in this trade, having been granted approval from the IOA (Irish Organic Association).
Supply and demand
She explained that “the demand is there, but unfortunately, we do not have the lambs coming in to fill everything that we need”.
“I would see that there are probably not that many people that are going to run out and suddenly become Irish organic sheep farmers, so it is going to be a conversion of existing farmers that are there already.”
“It is just some migration from one to the other. The more affluent domestic and western European consumer is out there looking for the product and is happy to pay a premium obviously to an extent, in the region of 5-10%.”
“Customers out there are already paying a premium product and are happy to pay a premium for Irish organic lamb because it is seen as a great, clean and environmentally safe product,” she concluded.
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