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The Chairman of IFA’s Organics Project Team Nigel Renaghan has met with Minister Andrew Doyle following the rejection of over 75% of applications under the re-opened Organic Farming Scheme (OFS). This is despite these farmers having full organic registration.

“The Minister has overseen a flawed process with less than a quarter of applicants accepted into the scheme at a time when the European Commission is talking about a Green Deal as part of the next CAP,” he said.

We raised a number of issues with the Minister, including the points system that was poorly constructed and actively discriminated against small farmers; lack of consultation with the organic strategy group regarding entry criteria into the scheme; and a delay of 11 months in informing farmers that they had not been accepted after paying to join a certification body.

“The OFS opened last November and closed within a four-week period, and now the majority of applicants have been rejected. This is despite many having made significant investments to convert to organic farming,” he said.

Nigel Renaghan said when pressed about those farmers who didn’t qualify, Minister Doyle said they could exit if they wished. However, these farmers have incurred significant costs already.

The Organic Farming Scheme is an important measure under the RDP. Farmers sign up to a contract for five years, with standard payments of up to €220 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €170 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status. In the RDP, €56m has been provided with €41.5m spent to date. Organics payments are worth around €9m annually with around 1,550 farmers in the scheme. The number in the OFS following this increase brings the number in the scheme to what it was in 2016.

Nigel Renaghan said the latest figures indicate there are 72,000 hectares under organic production, an increase of nearly 50% since the start of the Programme in 2014. There is currently a deficit in organic produce in Ireland, especially in horticulture, cereals and dairy.

IFA’s Organic Project Team is hosting an Organic Producer Day on Sat, Oct 12th in Marlay House, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin.

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Organics sector on the rise as both domestic production and imports see large increases

Between 2010-17 there was a dramatic increase in the amount of EU agricultural land dedicated to organic farming whilst imports also fulfil an important role, notes the market briefs on organic farming in the EU and on organic imports. The total amount of EU farmland devoted to organic product stood at 7%, representing a 70% rise from 2009. This reflects the size of the EU market, with almost €34.3 billion in retail sales of organic products in 2017. This growing domestic consumption is complimented by a robust import sector, with demand for organic tropical fruits and nuts proving particularly significant.

A driving force for this growth has been the relative high price premium that can be obtained by organic goods, with organic products being marketed up to 150% higher than the price of comparable conventionally produced goods.

Despite this, the yield on most organic farms is smaller than its conventional counterparts, with yields of only 40% to 85% for non-organic farms. These yield differences are not consistent, with sectors such as organic milk, producing volumes that are more in line with the non-organic average. Significantly, efficient organic farming practices had a significant impact on the yield obtained; suggesting that research and innovation will have a significant impact on the organics sector.

Overall, there were almost 250,000 organic farms in the EU in 2016 and the total number of organic farms has been on the rise. In total, there had been 14,000 new entrants to the organic sector between 2010 and 2017, though this was partially counteracted by 10,000 previously organic operators returning to conventional farming. The primary catalysts for this return to non-organic farming include production constraints or bad crop years.

Imports to the EU of organic food totalled 3.4 million tonnes in 2018, with the biggest supplier being China with more than 415,000 tonnes of producing supplied to the European market, making up 12.7% of the total market. However, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine and Turkey all had significant market shares. The primary goods imported were tropical fruit and nuts, cereals and oil cakes.

Imports make up an important part of the market for organic goods and increase consumer choice. This is partially because they often provide goods for which EU terrain is not suitable or where there is a temporary gap in the market. The report noted that these gaps could be harder to fill for organic production as the 3-year conversion period increases the time lag between increased demand and EU suppliers being able to increase their production.

The briefs note that the market for organics is not yet mature and that further growth can be expected. In order to fulfil the anticipated increase in demand, growth is expected in both domestic production and the volume of imports entering the European market.

More information

Organic farming in the EU

Market brief on organic farming

Market brief on imports of organic products


IFA Ulster/Nth Leinster Regional Chairman Nigel Renaghan is encouraging farmers to apply for the Organic Farming Scheme, which has re-opened for applications until December 19th.

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IFA Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady has said it is vitally important that all Organic Scheme Payments are made to farmers as any delays have a serious cash flow impact on farmers who are committed to going down the organic route.

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