The Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) was re-opened in November 2018 on a targeted basis on foot of the recommendation of the Organic Sector Strategy Group. Following assessment by the Group and based on market demand and supply deficits in organic horticulture, cereals and dairy, the Group recommended the re-opening of the OFS targeting expenditure towards sectors in deficit. Selection criteria which would facilitate such a targeted reopening were agreed by the Group.
The Organic Strategy Group, comprising a range of stakeholders, in assessing the case for re-opening the Scheme, focussed on the current production profile of the Irish Organic Sector and market opportunities. The Group concluded that while the area under organic production has increased, production patterns are not fully aligned with market opportunities. Most organic farmers are engaged in beef and/or sheep production with a relatively low number engaged in tillage and dairy. However, market demand and supply deficits were in the areas of dairy, horticulture and cereals.
Based on this research and analysis of the current profile of the Irish Organic Sector, the Organic Strategy Group therefore concluded that the key to long term sustainable growth is to ensure that the development of organic production is aligned to market requirements and consumer demand. To this end, it was decided that the sectors to be targeted in a re-opened Organic Farming Scheme should be horticulture, dairy and tillage.
Of the 55 applications that were accepted, almost 70% have one of the three targeted areas as their main enterprise. The other applications that were accepted all have land under one of the targeted areas albeit not as their main enterprise. Of those that were unsuccessful, 95% come from outside of the targeted sectors.
This re-opening was targeted at certain production areas and I am satisfied that the successful applicants will help ensure further sustainable growth in the organic sector.