There is significant potential for Irish farmers to meet demand from European consumers for organic produce, according to the Irish Organic Association (IOA).

The comments come as the group celebrates EU Organic Day which takes place today (Friday, September 23).

The annual event aims to raise awareness of organic production across Europe.

It was established following a joint declaration between the European Commission, EU Parliament, and the EU Council, as part of the EU’s Organic Action Plan.

According to the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), European demand for organic food more than doubled between 2011 and 2020.

Gillian Westbrook, chief executive of the IOA, said that European Organic Day is an important occasion to celebrate Irish organic farmers and businesses.

She said that the opening of the new Organic Farming Scheme (OFS), which has a budget of €256 million, can help to further build Ireland’s organic supply base.

“There is significant potential for both farmers and business to respond to European and Irish consumer interest in high-quality organic produce, that delivers for climate, the environment, and animal welfare,” Westbrook said.

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On Tuesday (September 20), the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) confirmed that 336 new applicants who applied earlier this year to enter the OFS have been approved

This will add 16,000 new hectares of land farmed organically in Ireland, according to the department.

The government has committed to increase Ireland’s organic land area to 7.5% over the lifetime of the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The new Organic Farming Scheme will open for applications in early October and will remain open until the end of November.

Applicants must be registered with an approved organic certification body before applying.