“There is no reason why we cannot do [slaughter] 200,000 [organic] cattle per year from the current 11,000 head.”
That is according to John Purcell, managing director of Good Herdsman, which specialises in processing organic grass-fed beef and lamb from Irish farms.
Purcell, who farms over 1,000 finished beef cattle per annum, believes the market has untapped potential as “we are not knocking at any doors of major European retailers, but markets are established”.
“We are dealing with the smaller operators. That is all we can currently deal with because of the volume,” he outlined.
He said that Germany and the UK are currently the “sweets spots” for Irish organic produce.
“We find that the German market is mature, where we are into our second-generation organic consumers at this stage, who are not trading out of organics any time soon.”
“They are raising their own families in organic, so like that, there is a bit of pressure in that people may be trickling down to a discounter as opposed to an exclusive organic shop.”
“But I do not see any pressure coming from the recession, as you may call it. The UK, on the other hand, we are dealing with a different economy totally and it is working very well,” he explained at an organic beef open day, hosted in conjunction with Teagasc.
He revealed that “40-45% of our produce is currently sold on the Irish market”.
“I cannot see that growing hugely, but you may have tangible growth of 2-3% per year”.
“But for the amount of farmers that we are expecting to come into the scheme, exports have to be focused on,” he added.
Jack Nolan is charged with pushing organics as part of his remit within the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine.
In his view, the organics sector is “only going to go from strength to strength”, and he said the transition to this farming system is “a mindset more than anything”.
He outlined that through organics, farmers can produce “good-quality” stock while making “a reasonable quality of living”.
He commented: “Minister Hackett led a Bord Bia-organised trade mission to Biofach in Germany in the summer. There, German retailers said we will buy as much organic beef, lamb, and cheese as you can produce in Ireland at a premium of 5-10%.”
“When you put that in and add in the government payment, which is now about €10,000 for an average-sized farm, along with reduced costs of no meal or reduced meal and fertiliser, your bottom line is going to be better.”
“Talk to your accountant about this and look at the figures because there are huge opportunities here,” he concluded.