Growing Organics Online Event
A ‘Growing Organics’ online event took place on 1 April, which was organised by Teagasc as part of the LIFT H2020 project and in association with the RDS Climate Smart Agriculture series.
The recording of the webinar is now available at https://www.teagasc.ie/rural-economy/organics/events/growing-organics-event---rds/
Ms Elena Panichi, Head of Organics Unit in DG Agriculture & Rural Development of the European Commission delivered the keynote address. She said that organics currently occupies 9.1% of total utilised agricultural land, or 15 million hectares, across the EU, with an overall target of reaching 25% under the Farm to Fork strategy by 2030. She pointed out that organic markets had grown over the last decade and that the market was worth €45 billion in 2020 and the EU was the second single largest market for organic produce globally after North America. Germany on its own accounts for €15bn, followed by France worth almost €13bn. €348 euros are spent per person per capita in Denmark and that's the highest level we have in Europe for spending.
The Irish government has set a target of having 7.5% of utilisable land area farmed organically by 2027. Given that there is currently 2% of the land area farmed organically, this presents a significant challenge for the Irish organic sector but may also provide opportunities to diversify the current agricultural model to add more value to Irish agri-food products. Trebling organic production will require major changes, agronomic and cultural and the involvement and support of the entire organic value chain from policy makers, research, extension and farm families to processors, marketing agencies and consumers.
Pippa Hackett, Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity at the Department of Agriculture, in her address, said that farmers needed to be prepared to embrace change and think “outside the box” in order for the country to reach an organic farm area of 7.5% by 2027. Minister Hackett spoke frankly about the fact that organic farming would not suit all farmers but insisted that the Department of Agriculture were determined to present organic farming as a viable option for farmers.
Paul Holmbeck, former head of Organic Denmark outlined some of the learnings Ireland could take from developments in Denmark. He pointed out how both Ireland and Denmark had a similar population size and yet Denmark was a market leader in organic sales, with 80% of Danes buying organic produce every week. He said the land area under organic had doubled to 12% and the aim was to double that again by 2030. “Every third litre of milk is organic and you almost can’t sell conventional baby food anymore,” he told the livestream event.
He said that farm organisations had championed organics, which had helped to change the mindset of many farmers that it was a niche area. He also said that key to the Danish success was the coming together of farmers, policy makers, research and extension agents, processors and marketing agents under one umbrella organisation to build both supply and demand simultaneously. They also worked extensively with consumers, retailers, restaurants and cafés to highlight the benefits for organic food and produce.
Underpinning Organics - Abstracts of Teagasc Research
Teagasc is in the process of building specialised organic expertise, to upskill both advisers and farmers in relation to organic principles and technologies, to help to achieve the ambitious organic targets. In terms of research, Teagasc is undertaking a strategic review of the long term research needs of the sector. In the short-term, we have collated abstracts of some of the Teagasc research that is relevant for the organic sector. See https://www.teagasc.ie/rural-economy/organics/events/growing-organics-event---rds/ for more research and advice.