More organic farms are needed in the east so animals can be finished and for more native organic grain to be produced, the head of the Department of Agriculture’s organic unit Jack Nolan has said.

“From the start [the Organic Farming Scheme] has been mostly taken up by farmers in the west. A lot of farmers that may have been close to organic already have come in.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth there. Really, it’s about two-thirds to the west and a third to the east,” Nolan told a Teagasc Signpost webinar on Friday.

Farmers on the western side of the country continue to embrace organics far more than the east, with the divide becoming increasingly pronounced.

New figures provided by Nolan show that farmers on the west coast are entering the scheme in larger numbers than in the east, widening the gap between either side of the country.

Cork continues to be the county with the largest number of organic farms, with 529, including those in conversion. This time last year figures show there were 464, an increase of 65 farms.

Roscommon has the second largest number in the scheme, with 441 this year to date. That is compared to 379 some 12 months ago, a rise of 62.

It is followed by Donegal, which saw a significant increase of 136 to 437 farms this year.

This level of participation and uptake is in contrast to eastern counties. Louth has 23 farms in the scheme in 2024 so far, a rise of seven farms in 12 months.

This year, Wexford has 89 farms in the organic scheme, up from 78.