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Henry O’Donnell: ‘Lack of ambition’ to promote organic farming

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IFA’s Organic Chairman Nigel Renehan said the organic beef price should be "sitting over €5.40/€5.50/kg if not more"

IFA’s Organic Chairman Nigel Renehan said the organic beef price should be "sitting over €5.40/€5.50/kg if not more"

IFA’s Organic Chairman Nigel Renehan said the organic beef price should be "sitting over €5.40/€5.50/kg if not more"

There is “absolutely no real ambition to promote organic farming” in this country by the relevant authorities, a recent joint Oireachtas Committee hearing was told.

Henry O’Donnell of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) made the claim about the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia and other bodies involved. Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy also said there is not enough emphasis by Bord Bia on marketing organic produce.

O’Donnell said the scoring system of the last programme put off farmers turning organic and is heavily weighted towards dairy farmers. He said products such as organic lamb need to have markets created and developed.

“I am totally against the scoring system as it shows no ambition on behalf of our Department of Agriculture,” O’Donnell said.

He also said the Irish stipulation of a minimum stocking rate of 0.5LU/ha can be difficult for some farmers on uplands and high-nature-value lands to achieve, while some land does not have the capacity to carry this amount of livestock and the stipulation is excluding a “huge cohort” of farmers from entering the organic scheme.

IFA’s Organic Chairman Nigel Renehan said Teagasc has no organic farm and just two organic advisors, while McCarthy said: “There is, in my view a particular problem with competition in the organic beef processing sector in that there is no competition from what I can gather.”

Renehan said the Goodman-owned ABP group controls over 90pc of the organic beef processing market in Ireland through Good Herdsmen.

There was also criticism of the cost to organic farmers for certification, with farmers paying €600 for organic certification.

“Twenty five per cent of organic grants are lost through leakage, certification and plans,” Renehan said, while Roscommon/Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice said the cost of setting up as organic is prohibitive for smaller farmers.

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