Teagasc to promote organic route as option for farmers


AS PART of the drive to have 5 per cent of Irish agricultural land certified as organic in four years’ time, a series of farm walks on 21 organic farms are taking place over the summer.

Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, in association with the Department of Agriculture, is promoting the organic route as an attractive option for farmers.

Only 0.9 per cent of agricultural land in Ireland is farmed organically compared to 4.4 per cent in the UK, while countries like Italy, Austria, Sweden, Finland and Denmark organically farm between 6 and 13.5 per cent of farm land.

Currently, most demand for organic food in the State is being met through the importation of produce, illustrating the huge potential for Irish farmers to convert to organic production and meet this demand themselves.

“The aim of the walks is to show that organic farming is a great opportunity for Irish farmers,” said Teagasc organic farming specialist James O’Donnell yesterday.

“A well-run organic farm can be very profitable in the current climate, as it complies with good farming practices, and when combined with Organic Scheme payments and premium prices for produce, there is potential for good profit,” he said.

“Payments for conversion to organic farming are € 212 per hectare for two years and € 106 thereafter, in addition to the basic Reps 4 payments. On a 55 hectare farm, the Organic Scheme payments amount to approximately €8,100 per year or €40,810 over five years,” Mr O’Donnell said.

“Organic food is a niche market, but a rapidly growing one. Most organic produce attracts a price premium and represents a significant addition to income on organic farms.”

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Trevor Sargent, recently announced an organic action plan to dramatically increase the amount of land being farmed organically, which stands at 41,000 hectares.

The four main objectives outlined in the action plan are to increase production in Ireland in line with market requirements;increase the knowledge base in organic food and farming; develop the market for organic produce in Ireland and abroad, and encourage the development of Public Procurement Opportunities for organic products.

The next organic farm walk takes place today on the farm of Pat McCormack, Coolnaboy, Ennis, Co Clare.