There is a “body of work to be done” to address and rectify that 70% of organic lambs are leaking into conventional markets, Teagasc has said.

This is mainly due to organic store lambs being sold on for finishing to conventional farms.

Speaking at a webinar this Friday, organic specialist at Teagasc Joe Kelleher said organic hill sheep farmers need to be able to send lambs across the country to be finished.

“There is a body of work to be done with the connectivity of getting that lamb to flow across the country from the hill sheep farmers, in particular, to the finishing farms and onto the processors," he said.

Bord Bia’s organic sector manager Emmet Doyle said many organic lambs are sold conventionally in marts.

“It’s also a lot of west coast farmers not having a valve to finish those lambs on the east coast.

“There’s big work [to be done] between Teagasc, ourselves, the Department and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) to see how we can address it,” he added.

Supply chain

Doyle said there is a market for organic lamb and the issue of leakage into conventional markets is down to coordination at supply chain level.

“We’ve got customers with whom we’ve had a lot of positive conversations, particularly in Europe, around organic lamb.

“The issue is they do need 52 weeks’ supply."

Extending the season, and consistent supply coming through, "are the areas that we’re working on as an industry”, he said.


On the webinar, which primarily dealt with markets for organic produce, head of environment knowledge transfer (KT) Pat Murphy said organic markets need to expand in tandem with organic farms.

“There has been rapid growth in the organic sector over the last number of years.

“This has been enabled by an expansion in the organic schemes and also in the growth in the market for organic produce.

“But it’s absolutely essential that as we grow, the numbers and the extent of the organic enterprises around the country, that market grows also and that market is balanced,” he said.

Doyle said Bord Bia are specifically targeting seven European countries to sell Irish organic produce to: Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden.

He added that France and Germany’s consumption of organic food has grown significantly in recent years.

“The likes of France and Germany rely heavily on imports to meet their consumption. Likewise, there are strong opportunities in Austria, the UK and Sweden,” he said.

In line with the EU’s Green Deal, the Government has set a target that 10% of agricultural land will be organically farmed by 2023. This is currently at 5%.

By 2030, Bord Bia forecasts a 10,000 to 12,000t increase in organic beef and a 2,500t rise in organic lamb, with export opportunities to account for 80% of this production.