Ireland's organic food market is expected to treble over the next four years, according to forecasts from the national food centre, Teagasc. Sales of organic food in the Irish Republic have increased steadily from a very low base in the mid-1990s, and could reach €86 million by 2006.
Although fruit and vegetables are the main drivers of organic food sales - accounting for more than 40 per cent of total volumes - Teagasc said that around 70 per cent of produce is currently imported. There has also been a steady increase in sales of organic beef and lamb, which now account for 25 per cent of total organic sales.
Ireland is still some way behind most of the rest of the EU when it comes to organic milk production, the centre said, while beef producers could increase margins by as much as 20 per cent if they converted to organic farming methods. Their output would be around 15 per cent lower, but costs would fall 7 per cent, the centre said.
The centre said that around 1,100 farmers were now involved in organic production or in the process of converting to it.