The land farmed organically across Ireland is expected to increase by 16,000 hectares.
At the National Ploughing Championships this week it was announced that 336 new applicants had been accepted into the Organic Farming Scheme, having applied earlier this year, which will result in the additional land dedicated to organics.
Minister of state at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett said that interest in and support for organics continues to grow. “I can also confirm that the new Organic Farming Scheme with funding of €256m will open for applications in early October and will remain open until end-November,” she said.
For the first time at the Ploughing, there is a dedicated organic village onsite, a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and National Organic Training Skillnet.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner at the organic village, John Purcell of organic meat processor Good Herdsmen said he is looking forward to the scheme reopening in October, as “there’s not enough supply” to meet demand at the moment.
“We’re expecting a lot of farmers, particularly drystock farmers, to join the scheme,” Mr Purcell said.
“There’s a two-year transition for them so that gives us two years to make sure we have our ducks in a row, have our markets established.”
Mr Purcell said they are slaughtering about 9,000 organic cattle per year, with “40% of those animals sold on the domestic market”.
“Every Irish retailer including the discounters has an organic beef offering so they’re all involved in the sector.
“The balance then is sold into the UK, about 17%, 25% into Germany, it’s very, very strong in Holland, a little bit into France, so we have nice routes to market established around Europe for Irish organic beef,” he said.
“Currently we’re only dealing with smaller retailers in Europe because of the supply, and because of the tradition of the conventional sector in Ireland, they have routes to market established for the last 30, 40 years.
“All we need to do is tap into those existing routes to get the extra beef into those bigger retailers around Europe.”
He addressed the fact that the price of organic beef over recent months has been “very close in price” to conventional, “because the conventional sector did rocket on their prices”.
“But you have to look at the organics over a three-year period; over a three-year period, we were on average between 10% and 15% of a beef premium, but you can’t just look at the beef premium as the only premium,” he said.
“The premium also is lack of inputs on your farms, it’s your way of life, and also you have your cheque in the post from the Organic Farming Scheme.
“That’s your premium in a package. It’s not just the price over conventional all the time.
“I’ve been an organic beef farmer since 1998, and I’ve seen nothing but positivity on the farm, in relation to my soil health, and my animal health and quality of the animals that we’re producing.”