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Future of Organic Farming will be Bright

The Teagasc National Organic Conference, “For Health and Profit” was officially open by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Shane McEntee TD, in Ballykisteen, County Tipperary, today, Wednesday, 14 September.

The Teagasc National Organic Conference is part of a series of events organised for National Organic Week. Professor Nic Lampkin, Executive Director Organic Research Centre, UK stated that the future of organic farming will be bright, as the greening of the CAP will secure higher direct payments for organic farmers, and as markets across Europe recover from economic instability. 

A new booklet for organic farmers, “Animal Health Management on Organic Farms” compiled by Pat Barry Teagasc Organic Specialist was officially launched at the conference.  The booklet is a useful resource for organic farmers as they seek to reduce disease incidents on their farm. Speaking at today’s conference, Pat Barry Teagasc and Douglas Gray from the Scottish Agriculture College, both came to similar conclusions that positive health management is the best tool in the prevention of disease outbreaks.

Teagasc Organic Specialist, Dan Clavin said: “Organic production in Ireland is located mainly in the west, and south-west with over two-thirds of producers located in Connacht and Munster.  Organic cattle farmers achieved a 30 per cent higher farm family income per hectare in 2010 compared to conventional cattle farmers (€349/ha vs. €268/ha). This was mainly due to significantly lower costs of production on organic cattle farms.”

Organic cattle farms have a more viable socio-economic profile compared to conventional cattle farms.  Eighty six per cent of organic cattle farms were considered economically viable, or sustainable, compared to 59 per cent of conventional cattle farms, according to analysis carried out by Teagasc in 2010.  This was due to higher farm family incomes on organic farms and more organic farms with either the farmer, or their spouse earning an off-farm income.

Speaking at today’s conference, Teagasc financial management specialist, Fintan Phelan said: “For organic farming to thrive it must return a reasonable profit to the producers. With pressure on family incomes from a variety of sources there is a renewed focus on increasing the profitability of the family farm. Teagasc have a number of computer based packages to help farmers control their costs and improve efficiency. Chief among these is the Teagasc Cost Control Planner and the e-Profit Monitor. This winter, financial training courses will be available to organic producers who wish to increase their profitability.”

Lorcan Bourke, Bord Bia Analyst outlined how the Irish retail market has experienced mixed fortunes over the past twelve months as sectors such as yoghurt sales and fresh meat has increased and poultry sales have declined.

Organic farming systems need to be profit orientated and the audience heard from producers who are processing and marketing their produce direct to consumers – these included Beale Organic Cheese – Kerry; Horizon Organic Vegetables – Cork and Crowes Organic Pork and Bacon Tipperary all of whom have managed to create a brand for their produce and ultimately achieve a premium price.  Direct selling allows farmers the opportunity to remove the middle man and become more in control of their own destiny.

Minister of State, Shane McEntee addresses Teagasc National Organic Conference (Department of Agriculture Press Release)