According to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), Ireland’s ambitious plan to quadruple the organic farming sector must come with the same ambition to find and secure new markets for it.
The chairman of the organics organization, Fergal Byrne, said a strategy to “dramatically increase Irish organic exports must be developed alongside the push to expand the sector”.
“Such a strategy is necessary to ensure that the proposed allocation of EUR 256 million to the sector under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is not wasted,” he said.
“The ICSA has always advocated for more cattle and sheep farmers to be supported to switch to organic farming.
“With this investment, more farmers than ever will have this opportunity, but to attract farmers to the organic program, we need to find markets for what they will produce.
But he said a coherent plan is needed so that there are markets for the additional products that an improved sector will provide.
“As it stands, we can hardly find markets for what we are already producing, and our fear is that as more and more farmers turn to organic products, the markets will not be. simply no longer there. ”
Organic promotional campaign
“At a minimum, the government needs to embark on a massive promotional campaign to ensure that we can expand sales of organic beef and lamb to high-end European markets,” he continued.
“In addition, ABP – the company that took control of the organic meat sector here – must be held responsible for its failure to increase sales of organic meat in EU markets.
“Organic Irish beef and lamb represent the best of what we can produce in the most environmentally sustainable way, but the sector has remained stagnant as there has been no investment in innovation.
“All organic farmers, as well as those considering a change, will need to see a strong commitment from ABP to step up to pursue new markets for organic beef and lamb.”
Biological education and training
When it comes to education and training, organic farmers and production systems have been marginalized for too long, he said.
“If we really want to find 6,500 new farmers to reach 7.5% of the land organic, Teagasc will have to allocate the necessary resources to the areas of organic research, training and advice.
And the obstacles to the program that have already been identified must also be overcome.
“In particular, the ICSA wants changes to be made to the housing requirements for winter cattle so that slatted housing can be made easier.
“Current organic regulations require a staging area that is not available to many cattle ranchers. This is a real obstacle for many due to the scarcity of straw and the huge costs associated with converting yards and sheds to suit the project.
“We also know that the high cost of the organic ration already makes the winter finish very unattractive.