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Minister Sargent announces appointment of Chair of new organic body Forás Orgánach

Mr. Trevor Sargent T.D. Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has announced the appointment of Noel Groome as Chair of Forás Orgánach, a new body which he has established to drive forward the development of the organic sector in Ireland.  Forás Orgánach replaces the National Steering Group for the Organic Sector which recently completed its second three-year term.  Minister Sargent made the announcement today at the Organic Demonstration Walk held at the farm of beef producer Sean Clancy at Tonelmore, Cloghan, Co Offaly.

Mr. Groome is Managing Director of Groome's, a major employer in the fresh food industry.  The company, which he founded in 1984, has developed into a multi-million euro business.  Mr Groome has been active in seeking to increase production of organic fruit and vegetables, an area in which he sees major scope for expansion since the bulk of organic fruit and vegetables bought by Irish consumers is imported.

"As Noel Groome knows well," Minister Sargent said, "there are real opportunities for Irish farmers, processors and wholesalers in the organic sector - not only in fruit and vegetables for home consumption but also in dairying, beef, lamb and other areas where even in the present economic climate there is a big potential export market.  In spite of the recession, organic food sales have risen 11% in the last year, whereas the non-organic sector grew by 2.7%."

"I have established Forás Orgánach to build on the work of the National Steering Group and its predecessor, the Organic Development Committee, but with a different emphasis," the Minister added.  "Whereas the emphasis in the past was to bring various stakeholder groups together to agree a programme of action, it is my intention that the new body will be made up of individuals with expertise in particular areas who can bring their talents and specialist knowledge to our efforts to develop the organic sector further.  I will be announcing the membership of Forás Orgánach in due course but I believe that Noel Groome will be an outstanding Chair.  Already an outstandingly successful entrepreneur in the area of conventional produce, Noel has the vision to see the potential in the organic sector.  He has generously agreed to give his valuable time to this job and I greatly appreciate this fine example of public-spiritedness".

Note for Editors

The word Forás means growth, development and progress.

The Irish organic retail market was estimated to be worth €120 million in January 2009 (compared to €104m in 2008, €66 million in 2006 and €38m in 2003).  The UK market is worth €2.1 billion and the German market is worth €4.6 billion.

Up to 75% in some categories of organic food sold in Ireland, particularly fruit and vegetables, is imported.  Much of this food could be produced in Ireland.

 Meat processors have repeatedly called for more production of lamb and, especially, beef to meet growing demand in export markets in the UK and Germany.

The area of land in organic production in Ireland is still very small, though growing.  The total area in conversion to organic farming or with full organic status at the end of 2008 was 44,751 hectares, just over 1% of the total utilisable agricultural land area (UAA) in the country.  The Programme for Government target is to have 5% of the UAA under organic production by 2012.  There are 1,450 operators, including some 1,220 producers.  Growth in the sector in recent years is shown in this table: 

Year   Operators Hectares 
 2003             983  28,514
 2004          1,004  30,670
 2005          1,090  35,266
 2006          1,270  37,466
 2007          1,334  41,122
 2008          1,450  44,751

Date Released: 15 July 2009