Why does Ireland only have 1,787 organic farmers?
The Irish food industry sells itself as the home of green, environmentally-friendly farming. Yet it is home to only 1,787 certified organic farmers – around 2pc of the total number of farmers and well below the European average of 5-6pc.
Tthe General Secretary of the Department of Agriculture recently said there are “significant market opportunities” for Irish organic produce and cited a recent Trade Mission to Asia where one high-end supermarket said the demand for organic produce is growing by 30pc a year.
Yet, with just 1,787 organic farmers in Ireland, our ability to export extensive volumes of produce is limited. One infant formula producer which uses Irish milk powder cannot source enough volumes of organic milk powder in Ireland and sources it abroad.
However, Grace Maher, of the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA) said part of the problem with the low number of organic farmers lies with the Department of Agriculture.
She said that there is currently no organic scheme for farmers to join, despite over 500 farmers joining the Organic Scheme last year.
“Last year there was a 60pc increase in payments under the Organic Farming Scheme – which brought Ireland more on a par with the rest of Europe in terms of government support – and we had an unprecedented numbers come into organic farming. In total, 504 farmers came into organic farming in 2015.”
However, she said that five-year Scheme has now closed and there is no funding for new farmers looking to join an organic scheme.
Figures from the Department of Agriculture show that the number of organic producers in Ireland has rinse from 1,277 in 2013 to 1, 787 this year.