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Minister Sargent says it makes sense to go organic

Speaking following his visit to the Annual Ploughing championships, held in Tullamore, the Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. Trevor Sargent T.D., reiterated the Government's commitment to developing the organic sector in Ireland.

"The Programme for Government has set a target of increasing the amount of agricultural land area under organic production from its current rate of less than 1% to 5% by 2012. Even though this is a challenging target it is I believe attainable and my Department has substantial incentives to operators to convert to organic. When the rising consumer demand for organics is taken into account it makes sense to go organic".

The Minister said the Irish organic retail market was estimated to be worth some €66 million last year, compared to €38 million in 2003 and that the new Organic Farming Scheme aims at encouraging producers to respond to the market demand for organic food. Rates of payment under the scheme are some 17% higher than comparative payments under the rural environment protection scheme (REPS 3). Producers do not have to join REPS to avail of these grants.

As a further incentive to encourage non-REPS farmers solely involved in tillage production to convert to organic farming, there is an additional payment of €240 per hectare available in the in-conversion period, up to a maximum of 40 hectares, provided they grow green cover crops. In addition, development grant aid is for equipment is available to farmers and processors under the Schemes of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector. The Schemes provide grant aid of 40% of the cost up to a maximum grant of €60,000 in the case of on-farm investments and €500,000 for investments off-farm. Minister Sargent pointed out that the schemes have been amended in a number of ways to make it easier for small-scale producers to obtain support. He also pointed out that advice on organic farming is also available from Teagasc or one of the recognised organic farming bodies.

27 September, 2007

Date Released: 27 September 2007