An Irish MEP has claimed that Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie MacConalogue is “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to organic farming.
Sinn Féin representative, Chris MacManus made the comments following a recent visit to the Beechlawn organic farm in Ballinsloe, Co. Galway.
The Midlands Northwest MEP said there is an urgent need to develop Ireland’s organics sector.
Organic farm visits
MacManus said that recent visits to farms in Co. Galway and Co. Monaghan have shown him how well farmers can embrace an organic model.
“Farmers are leading the way whilst our government sleeps,” MacManus said.
Under the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, which were published in May 2020, MacManus said that the European Commission has pledged to hit a target of at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land being under organic farming by 2030.
The MEP said the strategies also commit to a significant increase in organic aquaculture; both targets aim to improve the sustainability of the food system and to reverse biodiversity loss.
Despite the goals set by the European Commission, MacManus said that organic surfaces represent only 8% of the total utilised agricultural area in the EU.
“Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta have made the least progress in this area, sitting at less than 3%, while countries like Sweden, Estonia and Austria have managed to reach over 20%,” he said.
The MEP suggested that stimulus mechanisms are needed to develop the organic sector, which could include new certification schemes and “more straightforward production rules”.
“As flagged by my party colleague, TD Matt Carthy, it is likely that by the time the rest of Europe is hitting 15%, around 2025, Ireland only plans to hit 7.5%, leaving it with an almost impossible uphill battle to reach the Commission’s 2030 target.”
“It’s exasperating. Minister McConalogue is asleep at the wheel on this issue. It is a huge opportunity for small and medium family farmers, who are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.”
“The Government must not squander it. Peoples’ livelihoods depend on it,” MacManus concluded.
In November, Minister of State Pippa Hackett announced the start of the 2021 advance payments for the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS).
Over €4 million is being issued to 1,000 organic farmers who are participating in the scheme.