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Minister Smith addresses flagship event for National Organic Week

Addressing the All-Ireland Organic Food Conference, Mr Brendan Smith T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture today (Tuesday, November 7th) reiterated the Government's commitment to the Organic Sector. "The Government's objective is to see the industry develop to its full potential", he said. He welcomed the idea of an All-Ireland Organic Food Conference, and said:

"My Department's intention is to further develop North/South co-operation in the organic sector in the future".

The Conference, which was organised by Atlantic Organics, in association with the Western Development Commission and ICBAN (the Irish Central Border Area Network), is one of the highlights of National Organic Week, which is in its second year and runs from November 6th to 12th.

Minister Smith welcomed the launch at the Conference of the 3-year Organic Marketing Plan, produced by Bord Bia, and funded by the Department of Agriculture and Food. He said that he had no doubt that "it will greatly assist the development of the organic sector in Ireland over the next three years."

Minister Smith noted that the market for organic food has grown rapidly in recent years. It was estimated to be worth €66 million at the end of 2006, up from just €38 million at the end of 2003.

Minister Smith said that there were already generous supports in place for organic farmers through the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS). Special investment aid to organic farmers and processors was also available under the Scheme of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector. However the new Rural Development Programme, which will run from 2007 to 2013, would change the way in which the Department gave direct support to organic farmers "from next year", Minister Smith said, "it will be possible for organic farmers to obtain organic support payments without having to be in the REP Scheme."

This is designed to encourage small-scale horticultural producers to convert to organic production, and conventional tillage producers to convert part or even all of their holdings.

7 November, 2006

Notes for Editors

National Organic Week

Details of events can be accessed on both Bord Bia and Department of Agriculture and Food websites: www.bordbia.ie and www.agriculture.gov.ie/organics

Date Released: 07 November 2006