The details surrounding the process for granting exemptions to organic retailers have been revealed by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle.

Minister Doyle recently outlined the process for granting exemptions from the usual licensing conditions for retailers stocking only pre-packed organic produce.

“Any operator engaged in the production, preparation, storage or import (from third countries) of organic products, or who places such products on the market, must be registered and licensed as an organic operator,” he said.

However, EU member states may exempt operators who restrict themselves to the sale of pre-packed organic products.

Exemptions can be granted provided the operators have not been involved in preparing, importing or storing these products, other than in connection with their point of sale, according to the Department.

An exemption will also only be granted once the operator has not contracted another operator to carry out the processes listed above on their behalf, it added.

Retailers who qualify for an exemption are advised to apply immediately to the Organic Unit of the Department using the standard application form. The form is available on the Department’s website.

“If you are engaged in the sale of organic produce, you must either hold an organic licence in your own right or qualify for an exemption,” Minister Doyle said.

Department inspectors are expected to begin visiting all retailers of organic produce shortly. These retailers must be able to produce either a valid licence or exemption if asked to do so.

‘Demand for organic produce is outweighing supply’

The demand for organic produce in Ireland is currently outweighing supply, a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine heard earlier this month.

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

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

“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,” she cautioned.