Prices for organic beef have “slipped behind” prices paid for conventionally reared cattle in recent days, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Fergal Byrne, the association’s organics chairperson, said this afternoon (Thursday, May 19) that this is “completely unsustainable”, particularly in light of the higher farm costs involved in rearing organic cattle.

According to Byrne, this leads to a situation where there is no incentive for beef farmers to get involved in organic farming.

“Unless processors up their prices for organic cattle there is little hope of enticing livestock farmers to switch to organics.”

“It should come as no surprise to anyone that it is more expensive to produce organic beef – due to lower volume of farm output – and farmers need to have confidence when they go to sell their produce that this will be taken into consideration,” Byrne said.

The ICSA organics chairperson added: “There is absolutely no incentive for farmers to go to the extra expense of producing organically when those producing conventionally are getting paid more.”

He called for more resources to be put in place for securing new markets for organic produce; as well as for the marketing of it.

“We need to question why this [price difference] is happening and if there is any prospect of rectifying the imbalance.

“While additional money has been put into the Organic Farming Scheme, serious questions remain around whether there is a solid strategy to build our organic exports and deliver premium prices at meat factory level and at Bord Bia level,” Byrne argued.

He added: “Government policy is to encourage more farmers to switch to organics, but we must be able to demonstrate that it is a financially viable option.”

“However, as things stand, that is very difficult to do and the job will get even harder if we cannot re-establish a premium of at least €1/kg extra for organic cattle,” Byrne added.