‘Demand for organic produce in Ireland is outweighing supply’

Demand for organic produce in Ireland is currently outweighing supply, a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine heard recently.

The meeting was organised to discuss the challenges within the organic farming sector.

Demand has risen to levels well above those in recent memory, according to the CEO of Organic Trust Helen Scully.

In 25 years we have never seen the demand we are seeing now, but this demand will be filled by imports if we don’t fill it.

The issue of delayed payments from the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) was highlighted at the meeting, which was also attended by representatives from the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA).

A streamlined approach should be adopted; so that organic farmers could expect to be paid within a pre-defined period within the calendar year, with payments accompanied by detailed statements, she said.

It was suggested that the issue of double-funding between GLAS and OFS could be dealt with through more interaction between the two schemes. Specific reference was made to farms under 20ha.

It was suggested that a meeting between the licensing bodies, together with strategic members of Government, should be held in order to resolve the matter.

In response to a query from Deputy Willie Penrose on how the organic certification bodies envisaged the Irish organic sector growing, Scully said that new operators were the life-blood of any industry and must be encouraged and accommodated.

There was a direct correlation between the budget and the success of a sector, she added.

The initial stages of growing a base for the organic sector would be the reopening of the OFS along with the political will to allocate a budget of €15m to €20m, Scully said.

Scully believes that the OFS should remain a production-based scheme and that momentum would need to be maintained to encourage confidence in the sector.