An ‘organic action plan’ and a permanent ‘policy council’ is needed to increase the number of farmers certified as organic in Ireland.
That’s the view of the Organic Trust, the country’s largest organic farming certification body, which has included the call in a policy document submitted to the Citizen’s Assembly on Biodiversity.
An action plan would serve as the basis of policy for organics, while a policy council would ensure that these measures are working at farm level, the trust argued.
Compared to other European countries, the area of agricultural land under organics in Ireland is relatively low. Irish land devoted to organics amounts to just 1.63% of the total, compared to the EU average of 8.5%.
The Organic Trust was one of the Irish bodies that attended the BIOFACH food trade fair in Germany in July. The trust said “it was clear” at the event that Ireland was lagging behind other countries.
The submission to the Citizen’s Assembly states that policy, non-government organisations (NGOs), and market actors can drive organic conversion and growth.
Ireland’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) offers an opportunity to increase support for organics via market development, the trust said, arguing that budgets; initiatives for market development and farm conversion; innovation; and education “will be key”.
The trust said that Ireland has “great potential” in organics, which can be met by following the models of countries like Denmark.
In 2007, 7% of the total land area in Denmark was devoted to organics. That figure is now 13% and the country now aims to double that amount again.
The Organic Trust also cited the example of an island in Denmark which went 100% organic, in which a farmer, retailer, product developer, and mill owner came together to develop a range of new products for a supermarket chain.
Local “synergies” like this should be replicated in Ireland, the trust argued.
Equal development of the whole supply chain is also necessary, the organisation said, adding that the focus should be on both production and market development.
Citing the Danish example again, the trust’s submission noted that organics is firmly established within public procurement in that country, with a goal set to have 60% of food in public kitchens coming from organic sources.
The Organic Trust is also calling for a fund for organic agriculture (which in Denmark is funded by fees related to pesticides) which could be used to support advice services and build capacity among NGOs to drive market growth.