Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has described as ‘deeply concerning’ what he described as the Government’s ‘unambitious and disinterested approach to the development of organic farming’ in Ireland.
He called on Minister Charlie McConalogue to engage with all stakeholders to carry out a comprehensive strategic overview of organic farming policy.
Under 2% of all agricultural land in Ireland is under organic production, compared to an EU average of 8.5% as of 2019.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Minister McConalogue’s responses to questions in this area expose an unambitious and disinterested approach to the development of organic farming. It is deeply concerning that the Minister has set targets that, even if met, should be regarded as abject failure.
“The EU have set a target of 25% of agricultural land under organic production by 2030. The Minister has stated it is his department’s intention to reach the EU average of 7.5% by 2025.
“But, the referenced EU average dates back to 2018. Ireland is chasing an average that will be 7 years old by the time we aim to achieve it, according to the Minister’s plan.
“In fact, the average has increased by a full percentage point between 2018 and 2019; if the rest of Europe continues apace, by the time Ireland hits 7.5% the rest of Europe may well be reaching 15%.
“It is an absolutely ludicrous proposition that the Minister believes it will be possible reach the 2030 target if there is such little ambition under his watch.
“The Minister further cites recent government investment intended to create 4-500 new places in the organic scheme. But, the department’s own Revised Estimates indicate an increase of just 330 places.
“I have no doubt that, over the next decade, we will see an increase in the amount of agricultural land under organic production in Ireland.
“My fear is that, in a panic to catch up, Fianna Fáil will pursue organics schemes that will completely exclude our smaller family farmers.
“Indeed, we already have the first signs of this, with the existing organic scheme preferencing places to farmers converting larger holdings.
“Our family farmers are directly responsible for the positive reputation Irish food enjoys across the world. It should be a source of embarrassment for any Minister for Agriculture that Ireland has the second lowest organic production in the EU. And, it should be a source of shame that the current Minister intends to do little to change that.
“I welcome the fact that the Oireachtas Agriculture committee intends to devote a number of hearings on this matter in the coming weeks. It is imperative that Minister McConalogue engage with all stakeholders to carry out a comprehensive strategic overview of Organic farming policy.
“An ambitious organics strategy can deliver substantially for our family farmers and the environment. It’s time we got serious about getting this right.”
Note: 2019 EU Organic Average: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Organic_farming_statistics