Ireland bottom of the EU organic farming table
Irish farmers missing out on excellent opportunity to cash in on thriving market, writes Grace Maher
The third tranche of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) under the Rural Development Programme opened for one month at the end of 2018.
It is still too early to determine exactly how many farmers applied and will be accepted into this current tranche.
Including these new entrants, it means the sector will have approximately two per cent of farmers certified organic in Ireland. However, this is not enough to change our position at the bottom of the league table in the EU, alongside Romania and Malta.
In Austria, more than 20pc of farmers are certified organic, with Sweden and Estonia quickly approaching 20pc also.
The average is between five and eight per cent across the EU, which begs the question why are there so few organic farmers in Ireland? There are a number of reasons that contribute to this.
Firstly, agriculture is a vital part of our economy and culture, and it is something that we do very well. In some European countries, there is a big disconnect between farmers and consumers, and people have reacted to intensive farming practices by demanding more organic food. This has enabled the market to flourish and given farmers the confidence to convert to organic in large numbers, allowing supply and demand to develop in tandem.
There is evidence that the trend for organic food is growing in this part of the world also.
Secondly, the term "almost organic" is often used by farmers here who perceive themselves to be extensive rather than intensive producers.