The Department of Agriculture received just 317 applications for the recently reopened organic scheme, falling short of its target of between 400 and 500 farmers.

At the time of reopening, the Department stated that the reopened scheme was expected to result in an increase of up to 30% in the number of organic farmers in Ireland in 2021.

Young farmers and those in dairy, horticulture and tillage were targeted under the scheme but the Department said it was not yet possible to give a sector breakdown of applications.

The news will disappoint many as an increased emphasis is being placed on organic farming by the European Commission, with Ireland’s low rate of organic land, at just 2%, previously singled out by the European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski.