'Beef and lamb is not the only show in town'
The profile of the Irish organic farming sector is similar to conventional farming, with beef being the primary product produced.
While trade with the UK is obviously a concern, it is worth noting that last year sales to the UK were just 12pc of the organic trade. It is important that processors look to other European countries who are keen to source high-quality organic beef as there is a lot of potential to increase sales into these markets. The organic lamb trade is more difficult as overall lamb consumption is falling, making it a harder product to market.
The organic seafood sector is charging ahead in Ireland with up to 70pc of salmon farmed in Ireland carrying an organic logo. It is a world leader in terms of production, and lessons could be learned by land-based producers.
High production costs off the West coast of Ireland meant that in order to be profitable, the industry needed to look to premium markets. Hence they looked at the organic market, and it has proved to be a very successful move. For farmers who are experiencing increased production costs, the premium market really is their only option.
If Ireland significantly increased its organic land base, it would certainly give more credence to our "green credentials".
Birgitta Hedin-Curtin originally hails from Sweden but has lived in Ireland for many years now. In 1989, herself and her husband Peter established the Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare.
"In my business, quality and a consistent local supply is everything, and for that reason we use organic salmon. We run a small smokehouse in the Burren, where we marry traditional Irish smoking techniques with Scandinavian ways.
"Like most businesses in Ireland, we have high operating costs, therefore in order to survive we need to produce top-quality fish that sells in the high-end market. Having an organic logo allows me to do just that, and it is a recognised global standard, so it carries weight which is essential when you are exporting" said Birgitta. Burren Smokehouse has a mail-order facility where customers from all over the world can order direct.
They also sell their products wholesale to specific shops in France, eastern Europe and the USA.
"I have found that trying to sell your products as direct as possible is hugely important, as the more layers of distribution you have, the more expensive your products become. Having a presence in shops such as Harrods and Dean & DeLuca is vital to showcase your products to other customers, this type of endorsement, while it is not always profitable, does carry additional market value," she outlined.
Birgitta sits on the IOFGA board of directors and urges Irish farmers to look at organic production. "There are huge possibilities in organics, it is the only area of continued growth.
"When you look at the Nordic countries, and France, Germany and Denmark, you will see that organic is here to stay so Irish farmers should really take a serious look at it.
"Ireland is way behind in terms of production and support, however that means that there are great opportunities out there for farmers," she enthused.
Birgitta Hedin-Curtin runs the thriving Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare
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