There has been a growing focus on organic food production in Ireland which is reflective of the growing Government support available for the sector and the ambition to increase the land area being farmed organically in Ireland to 7.5% by 2027.
This ambition is a big increase from the estimated 2% of agricultural land in Ireland under organic production in 2021.
With the prospects of increased organic food production in Ireland, Bord Bia is currently reviewing how we can best support the sector through targeted marketing development and promotional activity alongside the unique constraints being faced in terms of scale of supply, seasonality of production in some categories, prevalence of imports and capability to export.
Market research commissioned by Bord Bia in 2021 provided an overview of the key opportunities and barriers for Irish organic produce across a range of European and international markets.
In Europe, the study examined opportunities in France, Germany, Italy, Austria, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
The cumulative organic market in these eight countries was valued at €27.7bn in 2020, growing from €19.5bn in 2015.
While the scale of opportunities for Irish organic produce varies across these markets, it is worth noting that imported organic produce accounted for 18% of total organic sales in these regions in 2020.
Beef and sheep production currently represent the largest category of organic production in Ireland and also account for the largest land area
This shows that there are opportunities for Irish organic products to be explored in these markets despite the impact on consumer choices of current inflationary pressures being experienced across Europe.
While Bord Bia is committed to supporting the growth in all categories of organic food production, the red meat (beef and lamb) and dairy categories are most likely to see growth in production in the short to medium term.
Organic beef and sheepmeat
Beef and sheep production currently represent the largest category of organic production in Ireland and also account for the largest land area.
There were an estimated 19,500 organic suckler cows and 66,000 organic ewes on Irish farms in 2021. Leakage of animals through selling into the conventional sector is a key issue for both sectors, although there are some indications this has reduced in recent years. Organic beef production in Ireland is estimated to have been 3,800 tonnes in 2021, while organic lamb production was in the region of 302 tonnes.
The home market takes 45% of organic beef and 50% of organic lamb but any further growth in organic red meat production will be destined for export markets.
Germany is currently an important market outlet for both categories, representing 25% of organic output for both species in volume terms. Engagement in this key market has indicated there are further opportunities to grow red meat exports with opportunities also emerging in other EU countries (and the UK).
Maximising these opportunities will depend on Ireland’s ability to overcome the constraints of scale of supply and the seasonality of production, which is a particular issue for lamb.
Organic dairy production is another key development opportunity. However, production in Ireland remains small. There were 75 organic dairy farms in Ireland in 2021 and these are largely located in the southwest of the country.
There has been growth in organic dairy production (from a small base) between 2017 and 2022, with 90% of organic dairy products produced destined for the domestic market. The remaining 10% are currently exported to several markets including Germany, UK, France, Middle East and the US.
Bord Bia is on track to deliver several projects to support future growth in Irish organic production over the next few months.
These include a project aiming to quantify the volume of Irish organic produce available for the domestic retail sector, and for export, within each category.
This insight will enable Bord Bia to plan targeted lead generation and promotional activities in 2023 and beyond.
In early autumn, Bord Bia will also present the results of an in-depth study into opportunities for Irish organic produce in Sweden and Denmark, building on an investment in a similar study focusing on the German market in 2021.
The National Organic Awards will be hosted by Bord Bia in October 2022 in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture. The awards are hosted every two years to highlight and celebrate the achievements of Irish organic food and drink producers.
Raising awareness of the range and availability of organic produce from Ireland among domestic consumers is a central aim of Bord Bia.
This summer, Bord Bia collaborated with major Irish retailers to support this ambition.
Bord Bia developed digital and in-store promotional assets for the Organics from Ireland campaign, to be used by retailers to highlight their organic Irish beef, lamb, dairy, seafood, eggs, fresh produce and prepared consumer foods.
Previous research conducted by Bord Bia indicated a strong preference among Irish consumers for locally produced foods and this pilot project aims to raise awareness among consumers of the availability of organic food from Ireland so that they can choose both organic and local.