Plenty of scope to grow the organics sector
Despite the rise in new entrants, just 2pc of Irish farms are certified organic compared to the EU average of 5pc
Published 22/07/2015 | 02:30
The Organic Farming Scheme opened for six weeks in 2015 and figures issued from the Department show that 870 people applied.
Of the 870 entrants, 504 are totally new to organic farming, while the remainder are existing organic farmers that have moved to the new scheme.
Based on these figures there are 1,725 certified organic farmers, or approximately 2pc of all farmers. Ireland is well below the EU average of 5pc with some countries closer to 20pc so there is plenty of room to expand the sector further.
It is crucial that markets are developed to match the increased supply.
All farmers who convert to organic production must undergo a two-year conversion period, they then have full organic status and can sell their produce as organic.
This means that farmers who have just come into organics will not be supplying the organic market until 2017.
"It would appear that the majority of new entrants are from the beef sector," said Gillian Westbrook, of the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association.
"For many years, beef processors have decried the lack of supply as a major problem in terms of securing contracts, so with a guaranteed increase in supply coming down the tracks the challenge is over to the processors to find new markets in the future," she added.