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Organic Agriculture in the Republic of Ireland

Helga Wilier, Desmond A. Gillmor


This paper comprises a review of the development of organic agriculture and a survey of organic producers in the Republic of Ireland. Organic agriculture in Europe was initiated by individual enthusiasts; organisational structures subsequently evolved and increasingly its development is being promoted by official policy, especially within the context of the changing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This sequence came later in the Republic of Ireland and is described in (his paper. Much of the paper is based on a survey of an 81% sample of the producers who were officially recognised as organic symbol holders in 1988, before recent state promotion began. Immigrants played an important role initially. Respondents in the survey were motivated mainly by ideological reasons. The spatial distribution and size structure of organic holdings were found to be quite uneven. As compared with conventional Irish agriculture, organic holdings were of more mixed character, with greater emphases on horticulture and arable crops and less on livestock production. Marketing channels were quite diversified, with direct marketing having predominated although selling through supermarkets is increasing. Subsequent expansion of organic agriculture has occurred and the paper provides a base to which future development can be related.

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