Shane McEntee TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine today launched Organic Focus, a new national group which aims to act as a driving force for the development of the Organic Sector in Ireland.
The Group is made up of representatives of the Department, Teagasc, Bord Bia and a wide range of stakeholders including the Organic Meat, Dairy, Poultry, Horticulture, Cereals and Aquaculture Sectors.
Minister McEntee emphasised that this new group is "a forum for meaningful discussion on issues that substantially impact the Organic Sector. The principal objective of the Group will be to identify solutions where possible and develop strategies to progress the Organic Sector for the benefit of all".
Announcing the new Group, Minister McEntee paid tribute to the work of Forás Orgánach over the previous three years and the progress made. Paying tribute to the outgoing Chairman of Forás Orgánach, the Minister said "During an economically challenging time for the Sector, I commend Mr Noel Groome for his commitment and contribution to the development of the Organic Sector over the past three years."
At the end of 2011 the estimated value of the Irish Organic market in 2011 was €100 million with 1,721 organic operators in Ireland and 52,390 hectares of land under organic production methods. "Despite the challenging times that we are currently in, these figures reflect a steady growth in the last few years" noted Minister McEntee "but there is potential for more farmers to avail of the opportunities that clearly exist for Irish organic produce both at home and abroad".
Minister McEntee has appointed Mel O’Rourke, Managing Director of both Sylvan Ireland and Sylvan Europe to chair the new group. Sylvan have recently achieved Organic Status with the UK Soil Association for its new Red Yeast Rice product.
In relation to the appointment the Minister stated, "I believe that Mel who has a wealth of agri-business experience and an invaluable knowledge of promoting Irish food is an excellent choice as Chairman. I want to thank the members of Organic Focus for taking on this challenge and to thank Mel for agreeing to chair it. I want to wish them every success in their work".