The Limerick and Tipperary Organic Farming Group will hold a farm walk this week, the first of five, with the aim of strengthening the organic farming sector in Ireland.
Topics such as soil management, arable crops, setting up a clover crop and crop rotation without livestock will be covered during the farm walk.
The first of five farm walks this summer will take place on Thursday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Pat O’Connor’s farm in Newcastle, Co. Tipperary.
Soil specialist John Geraghty and representatives from Flahavan Oats, Fruithill Farm and Organic Seeds will attend the event.
One of the main points of attention when the group was founded in 2016 was the number of new entrants to the organic farming system (OFS) and the subsequent impact on the supply and price of beef, the group said.
Despite the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) target of increasing organic acreage from less than 2% to 5% of usable agricultural area, the group said, Ireland has still not achieved this goal.
“While a number of the fundamental issues identified in early 2016 are also applicable today, more worryingly, the organic agriculture sector is vulnerable as its commercial viability remains uncertain.
“Although exceptional times, 2022 has seen the factory price paid for conventional livestock exceed that of organic. The current situation is not sustainable and will decimate the sector if allowed to continue,” the group said. .
The farming group also raised the question of why the organic sector is struggling in Ireland, when in 2020 the European organic market grew by 15% and reached a value of €52 billion.
A commitment to appropriate financial support is needed to increase organic production in Ireland, according to the farming group, which said:
“Specifically, SFO financial support for conversion and fully converted land is insufficient to attract new members and retain existing members. At present, this is the main obstacle to the growth of the sector.
Failure to attract farmers who practice tillage to convert, as evidenced recently by the shockingly low number of OFS tillage candidates, the group said, will lead to volatile grain availability.
“Unfortunately, a significant proportion of the concentrates consumed in Ireland come from UK. Agricultural farmers based in Ireland are essential for the sector to have access to a constant supply of cereals at competitive prices,” according to the group.
Created in 2016, the association is a network of organic farmers, processors and service providers, which aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between farmers.
Currently, the group has around 40 registered members, mostly located in the Golden Vale.
The network previously invited experts from organizations such as Teagasc; Edge Bia; DAFM; and Slaney Meats, to share their experience on market opportunities, soil management, nutrition and animal welfare.
The group said there are many challenges to be faced with organic farming and the wider agricultural sector, including market uncertainty; climate change; international price inflation; and political and economic volatility.
“Against this backdrop, the need to work together, put data to good use and promote our unique and exceptionally high-quality biologics has never been greater,” the group said.