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Minister Sargent announces review of Organic Farming Scheme

Trevor Sargent TD, Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, today announced a review of the Organic Farming Scheme, under which support is paid to farmers in the sector.  The review will look at how available funds are used to best effect to deliver increased organic production and attain the 5% Government target.  Currently, just over 1% of agricultural land in Ireland is certified as organic.  Consultation has already taken place with the organic certification bodies[1], 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.

Note for Editors

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% 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.  Though growing, it is still far short of Austria with 11% of agricultural land certified organic.  There are 1,450 operators, including some 1,220 producers.  Growth in the sector in recent years is shown in this table:

 Year Operators  Hectares 
2003  983  28,514
2004 1,004  30,670 
2005 1,090  35,266 
2006 1,270  37,466 
2007 1,334  41,122 
2008 1,450  44,751 

For further information, please contact the Department's Organic Unit by email at organics@agriculture.gov.ie or Lo-Call 1890-200509.

[1] The Irish Organic Farmers' and Growers' Association and Organic Trust Ltd operate the organic certification and control arrangements on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which is the competent authority under EU Regulations governing the sector.

Date Released: 29 July 2009