In his keynote address to the IOA AGM, which was held on Sunday 15th of November in Birr, Co Offaly Minister for Food and Horticulture Trevor Sargent reiterated the government commitment to the “growth and development of the organic sector”. The Organic Farming Scheme will reopen in January 2010 and the Minister also hopes to reopen the schemes of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector in January.
To date in 2009, in spite of the difficult economic climate, sales of organic food have already reached €124 million. “The factors driving this growth in demand for organic food, are health and environmental concerns such as the wish for food to be GM-free. The Programme for Government declares Ireland to be a GM-Free food island which means no release of genetically engineered live organisms into the Irish environment”. A voluntary non-gm label for producers is also in the planning stages.
On a personal level the Minister also expressed his delight at being one of the 155 new applicants who successfully registered as an organic producer with IOA in the past year. “Even though my patch is probably the smallest one in the country registered as organic I am delighted with it and enjoy all of the fresh produce that it yields though small in scale”. The Ministers address was followed with some lively workshops which were very well attended by IOA members.
IOA welcomes its new chairperson Dr. Sinead Neiland from the Organic College in Dromcollogher on board. Newly elected board members were Dominic Leonard who is an organic farmer in Laois, Claire O’ Connor owner of Manna Organic Store in Tralee and organic grower, Gillian Westbrook Research Executive from the ICSA and Kitty Scully from the Nano Nagle Centre for Ecology and Spirituality in Cork.
The Irish Organic Association (IOFGA) is the largest organic certification organisation in Ireland representing approx 1,100 farmers, growers and processors. It is responsible for certifying the organic provenance of its members produce and the IOA symbol indicates that a product has met the highest standard of organic integrity. IOA also works to inform the public about the benefits of organic food and to support the development of organic food production in Ireland.