Conventional cattle prices have exceeded prices paid for certified organic cattle over the past week, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has claimed.

The association stated that a premium of at least €1.00/kg is needed to encourage beef farmers to convert to organics and maintain organic status, given the lower output when farming organically.

“This week, we have seen the prices paid for conventional cattle exceeding those paid for organic cattle,” said ICSA organics chair Fergal Byrne.

“This is completely unsustainable when you consider the higher costs involved in rearing organic cattle.

No surprise

“It should come as no surprise to anyone that it is more expensive to produce organic beef - due to lower volume of farm output - and farmers need to have confidence when they go to sell their produce that this will be taken into consideration.

“There is absolutely no incentive for farmers to go to the extra expense of producing organically when those producing conventionally are getting paid more,” commented Byrne.

A solution could lie in increasing the resources allocated to the promotion of organic produce and in gaining access into new markets for such goods, according to the organics chair.

By doing so, factory prices, when combined with Organic Farming Scheme supports, could be sufficient to entice farmers into the conversion process and contribute towards reaching organic targets, he said.

Rectifying the imbalance

“We need to question why this is happening and if there is any prospect rectifying the imbalance. It is clear more resources must be put into securing new markets for organic produce, as well as the marketing of organic produce,” Byrne added.

“While additional money has been put into the organic scheme, serious questions remain around whether there is a solid strategy to build our organic exports and deliver premium prices at meat factory level and at Bord Bia level.

“Government policy is to encourage more farmers to switch to organics, but we must be able to demonstrate that it is a financially viable option.

“However, as things stand that is very difficult to do and the job will get even harder if we cannot re-establish a premium of at least €1.00/kg extra for organic cattle,” he concluded.