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Country report - Ireland

by Grace Maher, Irish Organic Farmers & Growers Association
This article was originally written for the publication "Organic in Europe", published by the IFOAM EU Group in collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Switzerland, and the Mediterranean Institute for Agronomic Research CIHEAM-IAM, Bari, Italy.  

Key indicators 2012

  • Organic agricultural area: 54,122 hectares (2011)
  • Operators:
    • Organic producers: 1,400 (2011)
    • Organic processors: 204 (2011)
    • Organic importers: 31 (2011)
    • Organic exporters: 10 (only members of IOFGA)
  • Retail sales: EUR 100 million

Area and operator data: Department of Agriculture and Food; market data: Bord Bia. Export and import data: IOFGA estimate.

History of organic farming

  • 1982: Irish Organic Farmers & Growers Association (IOFGA) is formed (private organic certification body)
  • 1991: The certification body Organic Trust is founded
  • 1994: the first financial supports are granted for organic farmers under the Rural Environment Protection Scheme
  • 2007: A new dedicated Organic Farming Scheme is set up
  • Late 1990s: A dedicated Organic Unit is established at the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine

Key sector institutions

IOFGA: www.iofga.org
Organic Trust: www.organictrust.ie

Production base: land use and key crops

Of the total organic agricultural area of 54,122 hectares (2011)

  • 96.2 % consists of permanent grassland and grazing areas (52,071 hectares),
  • 3.7 % arable land (1,993.6 hectares, including 273.6 hectares of vegetables), and
  • less than 1 % permanent crops (29 hectares).


The organic market in Ireland has remained relatively static in the past years. The national food agency -Bord Bia compiles its figures using Kantar data based solely on the four major multiple retailers in Ireland. Farm-to-farm sales, direct sales and exports are not included in the EUR 100 million; therefore these figures do not represent the entire organic market in Ireland.

  • Top-selling products: Beef, aquaculture products, fruit and vegetables, and dairy products.
  • Market channels: Major multiple retailers (86 % of the market) and direct sales (14 %).
  • Exports and imports: Detailed information is not available. However, the main imported products are fruit and vegetables, animal feedstuffs, and shelf-stable and ambient foods. The main export products are aquaculture products and beef.

Standards, legislation,organic logo

The Department of Agriculture is the Competent Authority and delegates control duties to private bodies. EU legislation on organic farming and other regulations are applied, and the standards of the certifiers are used (IOFGA’s Organic Food and Farming Standards in Ireland). There is no national logo, the organic logo of the EU and those of the certifiers are used.

Policy support

  • National action plan: There is an Organic Farming Action Plan 2013 to 2015. The target is to increase the certified land area to 5 % by 2020. The main objectives are to promote awareness of the potential export market and to identify issues which are impeding the growth of the organic sector.
  • Support under the EU rural development programme:  There is a dedicated five-year Organic Farming Scheme, offering funding per hectare.
  • Other policy support: On and off-farm capital grant scheme.

Research & advice

Agriculture Food and Rural Development Authority - Teagasc, the national advisory body, has two organic advisors: www.teagasc.ie

Challenges & outlook

The stagnation in the supply of organic produce at national level leads to a heavy dependence on imported organic produce to meet demand. Another challenge is the lack of uptake of organic conversion due to the low level of support mechanisms under the Rural Development Programme.

For other relevant websites see the sections on key sector institutions and research & advice.


Grace Maher
Irish Organic Farmers & Growers Association
Development Officer (media, training, education)
Unit 16A  Inish Carrig
Golden Island
Co. Westmeath
Tel.: (+353) 087 612 5989
Tel.: (+353) 090 643 3680
Fax: (+353) 090 644 9005