Irish Farming Grows Organically

IRELAND - Organic farming is expanding in Ireland. The area of land being farmed organically increased by 10 per cent in 2008 and now stands at 44,600 hectares.
calendar icon 3 December 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

The Teagasc National Organic Production Research Conference, taking place in Tullamore, today, Tuesday, 2 December, heard how there are now 1,230 producers farming organically in Ireland, a four fold increase over the last ten years. The organic market has grown by 82 per cent in the last two years and is valued at €100 million annually.

The conference was officially opened by Trevor Sargent T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who encouraged farmers to contact their Teagasc adviser to examine the opportunities in organic farming. He predicted that it would be an eye opener for many conventional farmers, as costs can be reduced, profits can be increased, and there is the potential of a growing market for organic foods.

Despite the expansion in the area farmed organically in Ireland, it represents around 1 per cent of the land area of the country. This is lower than the EU average, where across 25 member states, 3.6 per cent of the land area is farmed organically. Currently within the EU, 5.7 million hectares is either farmed organically or in conversion.

In Ireland, organic production is located mainly in the West and the South West, with counties Clare and Cork accounting for around 30 per cent of producers. The majority of Irish organic farms are involved in cattle and sheep farming with dairy farming being one of the least represented farming systems. The average size of organic farm is 36 hectares and compares favourably in terms of scale to that of conventional farms at 37 hectares.

Financial analysis by the Teagasc Rural Economy Research Centre, presented at the conference showed that organic producers can generate incomes comparable and exceeding those in conventional production systems. Figures on the financial performance on cattle rearing farms showed that family farm income on organic cattle rearing farms is 56 per cent higher than on conventional farms. This was due entirely to lower costs of production. Output and direct payments on the conventional cattle farms were higher, but not sufficiently to cover the additional costs. From limited data, analysis showed that organic dairy farming can generate a farm income comparable to conventional dairy farming.

Market research presented at the conference showed that consumer awareness and understanding of organic is very high and there is a strong core group of organic consumers. The Irish organic market is small but rapidly growing. However some of the challenges in marketing organic produce were highlighted, as more than half of consumers believe that it is expensive and price is the main reason given for not purchasing organic foods.

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