The Government has an “unambitious and disinterested approach to the development of organic farming” in Ireland, Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Matt Carthy has said.
He has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to engage with all stakeholders to carry out a comprehensive strategic overview of organic farming policy.
Less than 2% of all agricultural land in Ireland is under organic production, compared with an EU average of 8.5% as of 2019.
Under the agri-food strategy to 2030, the Government aims to have 7.5% of farmland under organic production.
“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 seven years old by the time we aim to achieve it, according to the Minister’s plan,” Carthy said.
Carthy said 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 to reach the 2030 target if there is such little ambition under his watch.
“The Minister further cites recent Government investment intended to create 400-500 new places in the organic scheme.
“But the department’s own revised estimates indicate an increase of just 330 places,” he said.
“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,” he said.