The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is being urged to prioritise new entrants to the organics sector, rather than land cover targets.

Speaking after a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne said that a focus on new entrants was necessary to “nurture Ireland’s organics sector”.

“The department must be careful not to put land cover targets above making organic farming an attractive and viable prospect,” Browne said.

“At present, 1.8% of the land area here is under organic production, but it has been promised that this will be at 7.5% by the end of the government term.

“While we need to be more ambitious than has previously been the case, we have to bear in mind that the organics sector has not been shown the value it deserves until relatively recently,” Browne argued.

He pointed out that the Organic Sector Strategy Group was only established in 2018.

“For these reasons, the organic sector must be seen as one where the advice, supports and the promotion needed are provided, so that new entrants can have faith that they will be able to farm effectively,” the Tipperary TD urged.

“Prospective organic farmers will not be attracted to a sector if the only priority is to achieve a set target and be swamped by more demands than support.

“This would deter people from getting involved in the sector, and would neither achieve the set targets, nor make for a sustainable sector,” Browne added.

He continued: “I asked department officials to assure people who enter the organics sector that they will be properly supported, not pressured into achieving quick results to meet a policy ambition for which there has really been little preparation.

“Our organics sector has huge potential, but it has been neglected too long by successive governments. Now that attention is on organic farming, ambitions must be realised through supports, not pressure,” Browne concluded.

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