Bord Bia landed a windfall this week in securing €1m from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund for the promotion of organic produce.

Even bigger winners for organic funding is the processing sector, which will get €1.7m from the Organic Processing Investment Grant Scheme, with a chunk of this - thought to be in the region of €500,000 - also coming from BAR.

The selection of Irish Country Meats (ICM) by Minister Hackett for the announcement was hardly done by chance - it has been at the forefront of developing markets for added-value lamb products for many years, long before it was bought by ABP in the Slaney deal.

With the power of the ABP group behind it, it will only go from strength to strength in the added-value lamb market and will be well placed to develop opportunities for organic as well.

Overall, through Green Pastures, ABP is to the forefront of organic beef and lamb processing in Ireland.

Well resourced

With the announcements this week, Bord Bia will be well resourced for promotion and factories handling organic will be well supported in bringing the produce from farms to the market. This is where the real work begins.

The exceptional funding being allocated to support on-farm organic production means that it is an option many farmers will choose in the coming years and the area of Irish farmland in organic production will grow from its low 2% base.

The initial indications are that the 7.5% target is likely to be achieved, but reaching the land area target isn’t the same as increasing production to 7.5%.

There is a view that many less intensive farmers whose income will be boosted by convergence will choose the well-funded organic option

In fact, there is a view that many less intensive farmers whose income will be boosted by convergence will choose the well-funded organic option and in the process reduce output dramatically.

Part of the difficulty to date for organic farming has been consistently finding markets that pay sufficient premium to offset the loss of on farm production.

The generous provision in the CAP will offset some, if not all, of this loss, but to have long-term sustainable business, it needs to be market led, as opposed to subsidy led, as is currently happening.

Bord Bia will take the money and deliver a strong promotional campaign, but there is no guarantee of long-term success.

Processors will take their slice of the money and enhance their facilities and perhaps their marketing capability. The question remains whether they will successfully grow and sustain a premium market for organic Irish produce.


The campaign to build the organic market has to deal with the highest food price inflation in almost half a century and decade-high overall inflation, which has only begun to ease recently, as energy costs dropped from record highs last year.

The domestic market has traditionally taken a higher percentage of organic produce than with conventional agri food, but, here, housing costs remain the biggest living cost for young professionals, the likely customers of organic produce.

Food price inflation is also a major problem in all our export markets.

Consumer spending

Consumer spending on organic purchases is an extremely discretionary spend. It can be classified as a luxury product for most consumers, with very few people committed on principle.

Organic produce also faces considerable competition from conventional meat and dairy off Irish farms that are already produced to an exceptionally high standard.

It is like the motor industry trying to grow the market share for a Rolls Royce when the market is already well supplied with Audi and BMW premium cars.

The subsidy means that we will grow the area of farmland in production, Bord Bia will deliver a professional promotion campaign and the factories will have enhanced facilities and marketing capability of their own.

Only time will tell whether all this delivers a sustainable market for Irish organic produce - there are no guarantees.