Lack of supply, markets and fair prices for organic farming in Ireland

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There is an organic beef buyer in Ireland with only a 12% premium paid for the product over commercial beef.

40% of Irish organic beef is sold as commercial beef while three quarters of organic lamb is lost for commercial sale.

And, providing processing outlets for organic products must be part of the country’s organic farming goals.

This emerged at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture which discussed organic farming in collaboration with Teagasc, Bord Bia and the Department earlier this week.

Colin Hayes, deputy secretary general responsible for organic products at the ministry, told the meeting that organic farming in Ireland was 1.8% compared to the EU average of 7.5%, and production here was “not fully aligned” with market opportunities.

“Most organic farmers are moving into beef and mutton production with domestic market growth expected in fruits, vegetables and dairy,” he added.

“At the moment, the supply is insufficient to meet the demand, and the growth of the dairy and beef sector is hampered by the insufficient supply of organic grains and proteins.”

Mr Hayes also highlighted how the sector is supporting the EU farm-to-fork strategy and the Green Deal initiative and underlined the importance of the three main initiatives in Ireland, namely the organic farming program, the organic capital investment program and the organic transformation investment subsidy program.

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Padraig Brennan, Bord Bia, said there was a need to look at the demand for organic food both domestically and abroad.

He highlighted how the Edge has seen a growth in demand for organic products in the country over the past 12 months with a 16% increase recorded in retail sales.

“Over the past few years we have seen a growth in the number of organic growers and this year’s organic farming program will see more growers arriving,” he continued.

“But with regard to the producers who are there and with regard to the sheep sector, there is a considerable flight of lambs from organic stores to the conventional sector.

“Three out of four store lambs that are raised organically are lost because of it and therefore are not slaughtered or made into organic lambs.

“If we could minimize that, we could increase the supply. ”

Mr Brennan went on to say that the level of imports of fruit and vegetables entering the Irish market was “very, very high” and he stressed that some of these products can be produced here while others could be produced ” if the price was right “.

“There is potential for additional supply, which is very positive, but we need to maximize as much as possible what is produced on the ground,” he added.

“Bord Bia is looking for ways to further develop the domestic market and make the most of opportunities abroad.

“If you look at the grains sector, right now Ireland only produces about half of the demand for organic oats.

“If we can get producers, then there is potential there.

“If we could get more grain producers into the system, we could also reduce our dependence on imported feed.

“There are customers for organic Irish beef, but we need a level of scale to meet that demand.”

Durability

Meanwhile, Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc, emphasized organic products and sustainability.

He pointed out that Teagasc now has 100 farms across the country that will demonstrate “sustainability in action” on farms.

The plan, he added, is to have five organic farms represented in this network.

“This will give us the opportunity to link the references associated with organic production and sustainability,” said Professor Boyle.

“From a marketing point of view, these two references should reinforce each other.

“Organic farms and organic produce will have a lower carbon footprint and will also benefit biodiversity and water quality.

“Organic farming results in much lower ammonia emissions.

“All of this should be a marketing force, especially in export markets. ”

He then highlighted one of the programs run by Teagasc that focuses on zero nitrogen application, which he added: “is replicated in the biological context”.

“We also do expensive work on our multi-species lawns and this can also be transferred to the biological sphere. ”

MP Michael Collins, meanwhile, brought a human perspective to the debates.

Agriculture

An organic farmer for 20 years – until he handed over the reins to his son last year – Mr Collins said the whole installation in Ireland was “a joke”.

“The price of livestock has never changed; if you lived in a peripheral area, there was no possibility of selling your cattle, ”he continued.

“There was a buyer all over the country and it was very difficult to find a market.

“In my opinion, markets should be used when weaned young are sold to sell organic livestock.

“We have a great program under the organic farming program and this program just needs to be expanded and improved.

“The bottom line is that organic farmers don’t get the price for their livestock and if they don’t get the price it’s discouraging, especially for young farmers who want to practice organic farming.

In response to Deputy Collins, Mr Brennan said that an organic finished animal sells for between € 4.90 and € 5 kg, which is a premium 10 to 12% above the average for a conventional animal.

He pointed out that there was “stability” in the price of organic livestock while the price of conventional livestock is experiencing a “fluctuation” – which has gone through a strong period in recent months.

He also said there was a need to “coordinate the supply”.

“There is a considerable leakage of animals from the organic sector as they pass through a cattle market, so I think if we could coordinate that better we would have more supply available,” Brennan continued.

“We would then be able to provide some of the opportunities that exist not only in the Irish market but also overseas.

“There is work to be done at the global sector level; when you have a producer who has made the effort to convert to an organic business, then it is necessary that his supply continue in an organic circuit until slaughter.

“I think that would also help in terms of the average price return.”


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