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Ireland: Review of organic farming scheme to meet government target

(DAFF) Trevor Sargent, Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has recently announced a review of the Organic Farming Scheme. The review will look at how available funds are used to best effect to deliver increased organic production and attain the 5 percent Government target.

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Currently, just over one percent of agricultural land in Ireland is certified as organic.  Consultation has already taken place with the organic certification bodies, and other stakeholders will also have an opportunity to take part in the process.  The outcome of the review will be announced during National Organic Week, which begins this year on 14 September.

Minister Sargent emphasised that like all Schemes operated by the Department, participation levels in future would be determined by the amount of funding available.  "Funding for the Organic Farming Scheme will be determined later in the year when the Government are preparing the Estimates for 2010.  It is my responsibility to make sure that what funding we have is used to bring maximum benefit and to realise the growing potential of organic farming in Ireland", he said.

The Minister indicated that he was likely to amend the Scheme to include selection criteria that would identify those applicants who were most likely to deliver increased output, particularly in those areas where production is not meeting the demands of the home and export markets.  "Some prospective applicants may have more to offer than others, and I would urge anyone who is thinking of applying to do some research first, undertake some training and talk to an organic adviser or one of the organic certification bodies," said the Minister.

The existing Organic Farming Scheme is suspended for new applications from today, pending the outcome of the review.


The Irish organic retail market was estimated to be worth €120 million in January 2009 (compared to €104m in 2008, €66 million in 2006 and €38m in 2003).  The UK market is worth €2.1 billion and the German market is worth €4.6 billion.

Up to 75 percent in some categories of organic food sold in Ireland, particularly fruit and vegetables, is imported.  Much of this food could be produced in Ireland.

Processors of organic meat have repeatedly called for more production, especially of beef, to meet growing demand in export markets in the UK and Germany.

The area of land in organic production in Ireland is still very small, being just over 1% of the total utilisable agricultural land area (UAA) in the country.  There are 1,450 operators, including some 1,220 producers. 

Growth in the sector in recent years is shown in this table:

 YearOperators Hectares 
2003 983 28,514
20041,004 30,670 
20051,090 35,266 
20061,270 37,466 
20071,334 41,122 
20081,450 44,751 

Source: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food DAFF: Minister Sargent announces review of Organic Farming Scheme. DAFF press release of July 29, 2009


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