There is “very significant interest among the farming community in relation to exploring and going down the organic route”.
That is according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, who believes that the “significant, stand-alone” organic sector has a “very exciting and unique” future.
He is of the view that “organic farming is not a niche or a fad; it is a very real and genuine part of our sector that will continue to grow, develop and expand in the time ahead”.
The Programme for Government contains a target of 7.5% of all agricultural land to be farmed organically by 2030, which in the minister’s eyes, is “an achievable target and one that we are very committed to reaching”.
He commented: “I am genuinely enthused and excited by the future of organics in Ireland. Organics and our commitment to the sector have the entire industry talking. The sky is the limit for organic farming.”
“Key to hitting the ambitious target is ensuring that we have the right resources in the right place, and this requires a whole sector approach led by my department.”
“We are going to achieve this target through actions including firstly a €256m allocation for organic farming over the next CAP period to achieve our targets.”
With this equating to a five-fold increase in payments for organics compared to the last CAP period, the minister acknowledged that current support “far surpasses” those that were previously available.
He outlined the other remaining resources and measures that have been implemented to achieve the aforementioned sectoral target.
“Also, through a new organic strategy forum, a high-level group chaired by Padraig Brennan, that is examining increasing participation, markets, and public procurement.”
“Also, funding has been provided to the Agricultural Consultants’ Association to increase advisory supports, and there has been tremendous feedback from their farm walks.”
“Of course, also the really significant team in Teagasc, with additional staff resources deployed into organics to support them.”
“Also, Bord Bia has recently appointed a dedicated organics sector manager, and a dedicated organic training hub is currently in development to address and support the sector. I am delighted that farm organisations are recognising opportunities within organic farming,” he added.
Minister McConalogue then commented that the island’s beef industry has a “hard-won” reputation for offering a premium product that “enjoys strong international recognition”.
He believes that this reputation can be “further enhanced” by increasing the Irish organic beef offering, which he said will “help stimulate” new market opportunities for producers.
McConalogue branded this as a “responsive measure” that captures the changing demands of consumers in sourcing products with high welfare conditions and high environmental standards.
He commented that “increasing participation in the organic sector is a necessary step in anticipating and responding to these changing market conditions where ethical consumerism is now a primary consideration among a new generation of consumers”.
The minister reaffirmed that it is incumbent on all parties to ensure that the organic concept is “well defined” to consumers in the time ahead.
He added that the “substantial” effort involved in bringing an organic product to the marketplace is a “key” selling point.
He said that “organic farming is a profitable enterprise, and that the foundation of this farming system is to maximise the amount of grazed grass in the diet, increase the quality of the silage made and reduce imported concentrates”.
The minister continued: “Organic farming is recognised for its pioneering and solutions-led attitude.”
“It is through the deployment of resources, information, and education that we can facilitate a progression to organic farming, which minimises uncertainty and establishes long-term confidence in this community.”
“The benefits of converting will appeal to those farmers who recognise that the fundamental principles of improving environmental benefits for all and applying sustainable methods of farming hold equal value to the economic dividend of securing a premium price for produce,” he concluded.