'Huge rise' in numbers opting to go organic
Published 17/06/2015 | 02:30
MORE than 46,000ha of land are due to go organic, as the numbers of new entrants to the scheme more than doubles.
Figures show more than 870 people applied to join the new Organic Farming Scheme, with over 58pc of the 46,000ha due to be brought into organic production for the first time.
Grace Maher of the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA), said the 504 new farmers opting to go organic under the new increased payment scheme was a "huge" rise.
She said processors will now have two years to develop "specific markets" for the new stream of organic beef as they work towards gaining organic status.
"Processors we have spoken to are delighted with the new entrants coming in as it means they can tender for the larger contracts without worrying about continuity of supply," she said.
The development officer with IOFGA insisted there was a strong market for the products, including organic milk and yoghurts.
IOFGA stated early indications were the profile mirrored that of organic farmers throughout the EU - young farmers, more women and above average farm size.
Under the Organic Farming Scheme, farmers enter into a contract for a minimum of five years, with payments of up to €220/ha a year during the conversion period and up to €170/ha when they have achieved full organic status.
"To put this in context, since the introduction of the Organic Farming Scheme in 2007, the maximum number of applications received in any year was 380," said Minister of State at the Agriculture Department, Tom Hayes.
He said this showed the recognition of the "potential opportunities" for organic producers.
Ms Maher pointed out there is scope to continue to expand as Ireland still lags behind other European countries which have on average 5pc of land converted to organic production.