Speaking yesterday (6 November) as the beginning of National Organic Week, Green Party leader and spokesperson on food and agriculture, Trevor Sargent, called for the Irish government to aid the growth of the organic sector.

“The market for Irish organic food has grown rapidly in recent years due to increased awareness of the advantages of locally-produced, organic food, in terms of health, environment and food-quality. This is a huge opportunity for Irish agriculture. However, prospective and existing organic growers and farmers need adequate supports,” Sargent said.

Criticising the government for its failure to nurture the Irish organic food industry, Sargent said that: “most Irish consumers who buy organic are sending money out of the Irish economy to pay overseas farmers for organic produce”. The Irish organic sector has been valued at EUR66m (US$84.58m) annually, but at present the majority of organic products sold in Ireland are imported from overseas.

“After almost ten years, this Government has yet to show that it is seriously committed to aggressively developing the Irish organic sector,” Sargent claimed.

The Green Party has called for the enactment of its Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill, which would see 30% of Irish agricultural land would move to organic production, up from 1%, and 20% of food consumed in Ireland would be certified organic.

“This would entail a range of policy initiatives, from aggressively marketing and clearly labelling Irish organic food to providing support and education to those who wish to put land under organic production. It is this kind of ambition that is missing from the Government’s policy on organic food, which, in turn, is undermining the development of a clean, green image for Irish food and, by effectively limiting competition in the organic sector, is keeping prices unnecessarily high for consumers,” he concluded.