New markets for organic produce needed

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has said new markets need to be developed for organic produce.

The association has welcomed the increase in funding to the Organic Farming Scheme announced in Budget 2021.

The overall objective of the scheme is to deliver enhanced environmental and animal welfare benefits and to encourage producers to respond to the market demand for organically produced food.

ICSA organics chair Fergal Byrne said: “Increasing the funding to €16 million annually and opening the scheme to new applicants is a step in the right direction.

“However, more needs to be done in terms of accessibility to the scheme and in the development of new markets for organic produce.

We know the organics sector needs considerable new investment if it is to expand in any meaningful way and increasing the annual budget from €12 million to €16 million is certainly a good start.

“However, the EU Farm to Fork strategy contains an EU wide target of 25% [in terms of the area farmed] to be set aside for organic farming by 2030. This is an ambitious target and one that makes it clear we need to do much more if we are serious about contributing to that ambition,” Byrne added.

Entrants to scheme

The ICSA wants to see farmers from all sectors given the opportunity to move to organic farming including the necessary supports.

Byrne said: “The last call for applications under the Organic Farming Scheme prioritised the tillage, dairy and horticulture sectors, while access for cattle and sheep farmers was restricted.

“ICSA does not want to see a repeat of this, and all farmers prepared to make the switch to organic farming must be facilitated.

A drive to secure adequate markets for organic produce must also be done in tandem with the widening of the scheme.

“We already struggle to find markets for the organic beef and lamb we currently produce, yet consumer studies across Europe suggest that the market opportunity is far greater than the size of the supply.

“Ireland can be a world leader when it comes to organic produce but tapping into all new market opportunities is key,” Byrne concluded.