The Department will continue to implement the actions set out in the National Organic Strategy for the development of the Organic Food Sector for the period up to 2025. The implementation of the actions detailed in the Strategy is regarded as a priority and critical to the further development of the organic sector in Ireland.
The current Programme for Government has set a new target for organic farming, to meet changing consumer trends in this area. While the EU Commission’s objective of reaching at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming by 2030 is highly ambitious, there is a commitment to align Ireland’s organic land area with that of the current EU average of approximately 7.5% over the lifetime of this Government. The Programme aims to focus on developing domestic and international organic markets, to ensure that farmers have access to premium-paying markets for their produce.
The Programme for Government also focuses particularly on maximising potential opportunities in the organic sector, the supply of quality Irish grains to an expanding food and drinks industry, and opportunities for home-grown proteins in animal feeds.
The Department is continuing to develop the CAP Strategic Plan in consultation with stakeholders through the CAP Consultative Committee and other forums. Consideration is currently being given to the measures that will be supported under the new CAP Strategic Plan, and stakeholders will be further consulted on this shortly. These measures will ensure we have the tools to build on the success to date of the organic farming sector, which will assist in achieving our targets.
A total of 317 applications were received under the 2021 Organic Farming Scheme. Based on the average size of organic farms, I believe there will result in an additional 16,000 hectares brought into the Scheme in respect of these applications. This will equate to an increase of over 20% in the area of land farmed organically in 2021. Subject to funding being available after this year's budget, I am also hopeful of reopening the scheme for 2022.