The Irish Organic Association (IOA) has said that the announcement today (Wednesday, January 26) by the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM) to reopen the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) on February 9, 2022 sends a “clea message” to food business about the merits of the sector.

The scheme is part of the government efforts to have at least 7.5% of Irish farmland under organic production as set out in the Programme for Government.

The scheme aims to capitalise on the growing demand for organic food both in Ireland and other European countries.

Gillian Westbrook, Irish Organic Association CEO, said: “The Irish Organic Association welcomes the department’s plans to reopen the organic farming scheme as a means of incentivising and supporting farmers interested in converting to organic farming.

This also sends a clear message to food business of the potential green growth opportunities through increased supply of home-grown organic produce as Irish and EU demand continues to increase year-on-year.”

“Organic market trends both in Ireland and the EU clearly speak for themselves, with Bord Bia reporting sustained growth between 2015 and 2020, which is projected to continue,” she added/

“However, for Irish organic farmers and food business to take advantage of these trends, the Irish Organic Association wants to see a clear and concerted effort between the government, the organic sector, Teagasc, Bord Bia and the Irish food industry to win those markets and develop organic value chains both at home and abroad, backed by a strong package of measures under the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] Strategic Plan due in 2023,” she concluded.

Organic Farming Scheme

The OFS provides financial support to farmers to encourage production of organic foods.

To be eligible for payment a farmer must:

  • Produce livestock and crop products according to European Union organic standards;
  • Complete an approved training course;
  • Farm and manage the land included in the application;
  • Register with, and be approved as, an organic operator by a private inspection body;
  • Have a minimum farm area of 3ha – except for horticultural producers where the minimum farm area is 1ha.

According to DAFM, partial conversion of the farm to organic farming is allowed:

  • If both organic and conventional crops are to be produced, different species of plant, or different varieties that can be easily differentiated at all stages of growth and production, must be used;
  • If both organic and conventional livestock are to be produced, different species must be involved.

The OFA said that 2021 reporting from Bord Bia estimated that the Irish organic market was valued at approximately €235 million in 2020, with an annual growth rate of about 9% between 2015 and 2020.