Greens call for Organic Farming Scheme to be re-opened

18th April 2017

Ireland languishing second from bottom in EU league table for organic production

Government’s refusal to embrace lucrative premium market a serious missed opportunity

The Green Party today called on the Government to reopen the Organic Farming Scheme for new entrants, so that the thousands of farmers who are interested in converting to organic farming can do so, and can avail of the ever-increasing markets in the important agri-food sector.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine recently confirmed that it would not be reopening the Organic Farming Scheme for new organic farmers. This scheme has been closed since 2015, despite the fact that demand for organic produce in the EU has doubled in the past 10 years, and there has been a 30% increase in the Irish market for organic food in the past four years.

Green Party Spokesperson on Agriculture, Pippa Hackett, said today: “This is totally counterintuitive, and one would have to seriously question the wisdom of Minister Creed and his advisors on their lack of ambition to embrace this premium market which is financially lucrative for our farmers.

“Regrettably Ireland is wallowing at the bottom of yet another league table in Europe. Eurostat data indicates that the EU average for agricultural land in organic production is 6%, with Austria topping the table at 20%, and Ireland stagnating second from last at less than 2%. It is clear that Minister Creed cares little for the future of organic farming. By not offering our farmers the option to farm organically, he is doing a disservice not only to Irish agriculture, but also to Irish consumers who will now have to rely on imported organic produce.

“As consumers become increasingly conscious about where their food comes from and how it is produced, the demand for organic produce has increased significantly. Consumers are attracted to the nutritional benefits of organic food, as well as the environmentally friendly ways in which it is farmed. Research indicates that organic farms have significantly more biodiversity, improved water quality, higher animal welfare standards, and with overall positive effects on climate change mitigation, it is win-win all the way.

“We have a unique opportunity to be leaders in organic production; but all we are doing is trailing behind our peers, and unfortunately the knock on effects of this government's decision will be felt for years to come.”