Much talk centred around organic farming at a recent Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) regional meeting in Co. Galway.

Throughout the meeting, speakers gave their thoughts about organics, with many doubts cast about the viability of this production system.

One of the speakers at the event, Galway’s Henry Walsh, of the IFA’s Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, said that “organics isn’t the bed of roses it’s being made out to be”.

Meanwhile, the IFA’s senior policy executive, Tomas Bourke took aim at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) stance on organics, pointing out that the markets for organic produce are not there for what is an “expensive production system” for farmers to potentially pursue.

Bourke said: “There’s a lot of money being pumped into organics by the DAFM and it sounds very good.

“Unfortunately, when we were presented with the facts regarding the marketplace for organic produce by Bord Bia, it transpired that there is a significant amount of organic produce already being sold into the commercial market.

“This is because the market is currently filled by the current levels of organic production.

“So, the point we have made is that if you are to drive a particular, and expensive, type of production system it needs to have a place on the market in order for it to show a return.

“It’s expensive by the way in which you will be reducing the output from your farm, which, in turn, means you will have to maximise the price you are getting if you will be producing less kgs of beef or lamb and currently there is no indication this can be achieved.”

‘Local chosen over Irish organic produce’

Turning to what insights into the marketplace have been carried out for Irish organic produce, Bourke stated:

“Europe was a place that was looked at as a potential market which Bord Bia did a market appraisal of, particularly in Germany and the outcome of that was that market would actually prefer to buy locally produced commercial beef, rather than Irish organic beef.

“So, it’s very concerning the direction of travel from of our government is to put more and more money into driving farmers down a route of production that no market effectively needs us for, and the end result will be that the product will be sold onto the commercial market instead.

“I’d advise everyone strongly thinking about organics, to do up the costings and the question that needs to be asked is what will happen when the supports run out?

“Because then you will have lost the capacity on your farm and you’re selling your organic product at the commercial price that isn’t even working for commercial production, which doesn’t add up.

“We have called them out on this and told them to show us the market capacity for organic produce before leading farmers down a road to something that sounds good, but when looked at closer, there’s a lot to be answered for yet.”