An additional 50,000ha of land could be converted to organic agriculture in 2022 through the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS), Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett has said.
She told the Dáil this week that an increase of 50,000ha would represent a 50% increase in the area currently farmed organically.
“The current area under organic production is 74,000ha and we brought in 13,000ha from last year. Therefore, the total area either in organic or in conversion is 87,000ha.
“As I said, an increase of 50,000ha with the proposed money in the budget for next year would bring the figure to around 130,000ha, which would represent a 57% increase on this year,” she said in response to questions from Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy.
The Government had targeted that Ireland has 7.5% of land under organics during its term.
“In terms of the 7.5% target, it was not set to be reached by 2030. Originally, it was to be reached in the term of the Government, but as that is not a set period of time, we aligned it with the CAP strategic plan period.
“That means the 7.5% target is to be met by 2027,” she said.
Number of organic farmers
Carthy said that it is “crucial” that the number of organic farmers is increased.
“Otherwise, I fear the Department will go for what might be considered low-hanging fruit.
“It will go for the larger farmers to come into the scheme in order to meet the 50,000ha target. Will the Minister of State give a commitment that she will shape the scheme to encourage smaller and medium-sized farmers to enter organics?” he said.
Minister Hackett said a large number of farmers need to be in the scheme to create a critical mass and allow for significant engagement, knowledge transfer and peer-to-peer work.