Building on the momentum of last year’s growth of over 6%, the new figures, published by Bord Bia on Thursday 13 October, show a further year-on-year increase of 23.7%, bringing the total value of organic grocery sales to €142m.
The figures were announced on Thursday during the national organic awards, which took place in Bord Bia’s Dublin headquarters. Over 70 industry representatives gathered for the event, which rewards quality within the Irish organic sector across categories including best new product, chef’s choice, export and innovation.
Following thorough judging on some 278 individual products, a record-high level of entries, seven organic food companies were selected as overall category winners. Two Leitrim food businesses were among the top seven. The Organic Centre, based in Rossinver, won best fresh product award for its organic salad bag, a selection of mixed salad leaves with edible flowers and herbs, while the best prepared product award went to Drumshambo’s Blake’s Always Organic for its culture blend coffee.
Best prepared product: Blakes Always Organic Food @Bordbia - national organic awards— Farmers Journal (@farmersjournal) October 13, 2016
Based in Timoleague, Co Cork, Ummera Smoked Products won the best new product award for its smoked organic picanha beef, made using the rump cap cut of beef, which the judges noted as “exceptional”.
The business, a smokehouse in operation for over 40 years, currently supplies the product to a number of hotels and restaurants nationwide. Flahavan’s Irish organic porridge, which is exported to over 11 countries including the United Arab Emirates, Russia and South Korea, was awarded the export award.
The rest of the winners included: Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny, whose orchard syrup picked up the chefs’ choice award, a new category for 2016, for its versatility in the kitchen; Mulberry Meadow Organic Farm based in Monaghan won the innovation award for its “My organics living salad” – a salad bowl mix. The judges considered the “vibrant” product as unique within the sector. Finally, Galway’s Green Earth Organics received the direct selling award for its 100% Irish veg box, which the business sells online making it easy for shoppers to access locally-grown, organic produce.
Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal after the awards ceremony, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Andrew Doyle said he was delighted with the current state of the organic sector, which received €10m in funding in Budget 2017.
“It was a very competitive awards ceremony. Everybody who took part in the competition is a winner because they’re advocating for the sector. And it’s a growing sector. While there is huge potential for it domestically, there is also a big market for organic product abroad.”
I think there is a place for organics beyond 2% land use
In relation to increasing land area usage for organics in Ireland, Doyle said the fact that we have grown from 1% to 2% over the last few years is a good indicator of where organics can go.
“I think there is an attraction to it and an interest in it. Awareness and understanding of what it involves and can yield is very important. I think it has a place beyond 2% land use. I would like to see it go so far as 7%, which is the EU average for organic land use.”
Market for organics abroad
John Flahavan, chairman of E Flahavan and Sons, which won the best organic export award for its organic oats, told the Irish Farmers Journal that the business goes back to his great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Dunn, who milled from the same location in Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford.
“I’m sixth generation and my son and daughter are seventh generation,” he said.
One of the major issues at the moment is how we get over the whole Brexit and the currency issues
Flahavan’s diversified into the production of organic oats some years ago and now have the largest brand of organic oats in the UK. All in all, Flahavan’s export their products to 17 countries, including the UK, US and South Korea. But Brexit is looming and is causing some worries.
“One of the major issues at the moment is how we get over the whole Brexit and the currency issues,” John said. “That’s our major challenge, to keep Flahavan’s in the supermarkets in the UK and to develop new markets as well.”