Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
77. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the additional resources he is making available to support the development of organic farming in Ireland in view of the Irish target of 7.5% and the EU target of 25% of organic farmland by 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37089/21]
There is considerable growth in the organic sector in Ireland at present with the area of land under organic production now at approximately 74,000 hectares, an increase of nearly 50% since 2014. The current Programme for Government has set a new target for organic farming, to meet changing consumer trends in this area and has been a key priority of mine since becoming Minister.
This new commitment is to align Ireland’s organic land area with that of the current EU average of approximately 7.5% over the lifetime of this Government. This is the highest level of ambition ever set for the organic sector in Ireland and one which I fully intend to deliver. This will be delivered in a number of ways but principally through supports for the sector and closer integration of all links in the value chain from primary production right through to processing.
In 2018, the Department established the Organic Sector Strategy Group which was tasked with developing a National Organic Strategy for the development of the Organic Food Sector in Ireland for the period up to 2025. This strategy was published in January 2019. To assist the sector to realise its potential, an Organic Strategy implementation Group was established to monitor the implementation of the strategy. I believe its time that we review this strategy in light of the more ambitious targets for the sector.
Within the Organic Strategy, the lead role for the overarching cross sectoral action of market identification and activation is assigned to Bord Bia. Funding of €300,000 has been provided to Bord Bia for their Organic Marketing Plan in respect of 2021 and we are engaging with them on this. Developing new market outlets for our organic produce is essential if the sector is to develop.
I also recently announced the re-opening of the Organic Processing Investment Grant Scheme with an increased level of support of €1.2m for this year. Support is also provided under the Organic Capital Investment Scheme. Our main support is the Organic Farming Scheme to assist farmers converting and maintaining organic farming practices which I reopened this year after securing an additional €4m in the budget. I also intend to reopen this scheme again for 2022 subject to available funding.
Looking to the future, the Department is continuing to develop the CAP Strategic Plan in consultation with stakeholders through the CAP Consultative Committee and other forums. Consideration is currently being given to the measures that will be supported under the new CAP Strategic Plan which will include an enhanced support scheme for organic farming. These measures will ensure we have the tools to build on the success to date of the organic farming sector, which will assist in achieving our targets.
78. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of agricultural land in the State that was in organic production or conversion to organic production at the beginning of 2021; the amount in production or conversion to date; and the target output by the end of 2021. [38156/21]
The area of land under organic production at the beginning of 2021 was approximately 74,000 hectares, the vast majority of which has completed the in-conversion process. This is an increase of nearly 50% in the area of land under organic production since 2014.
A total of 317 applications were received under the 2021 Organic Farming Scheme. As the Basic Payment Scheme applications have not yet been finalised, the organic area of these applications is not yet available. Based on the average size of organic farms however, I believe there will be an additional 16,000 hectares brought into the Scheme in respect of these applications. This will equate to an increase of over 20% in the area of land farmed organically in 2021.
I will continue to progress the implementation of the National Organic Strategy 2019-2025 which sets out ambitious growth targets for the sector by aligning it closely with market opportunities. There is a strong correlation between this strategy and the EU Action Plan which is to increase consumer trust in organic food and to promote the conversion to and maintenance of organic farming methods.
The current Programme for Government has set a new target for organic farming, to meet changing consumer trends in this area. While the EU Commission’s objective of reaching at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming by 2030 is ambitious, there is a commitment to align Ireland’s organic land area with that of the current EU average of approximately 7.5% over the lifetime of this Government. The Programme aims to focus on developing domestic and international organic markets, to ensure that farmers have access to premium-paying markets for their produce.
The Programme for Government also focuses particularly on maximising potential opportunities in the organic sector, the supply of quality Irish grains to an expanding food and drinks industry, and opportunities for home-grown proteins in animal feeds.