Horticultural growers, led by IFA President Tim Cullinan, held a protest outside the Convention Centre in Dublin to highlight the challenges around the harvesting of horticulture peat and the central role it plays in the sector.
“Without immediate Government intervention to allow the harvesting of peat, the Irish horticultural sector faces wipe out. The Ministers in charge here have to step in save the sector. The situation is now beyond serious,” said Tim Cullinan.
Growers built a 50sq metre display with their produce outside where the Dáil sat. It depicted the message ‘No Peat, No Produce’ to remind Government that the horticultural sector cannot supply Irish produce for consumers without peat.
“As a major segment of the Irish horticulture sector relies on peat, particularly the mushroom and ornamental sectors, this will have devastating consequences. Producers will either have to close their business or import peat, which will make some businesses unviable because of the extra cost,” he said.
“It’s contradictory for the Minister for Horticulture to commission a report on opportunities for the horticultural sector, while at the same time the industry is facing closure because the raw material required is effectively gone.”
Ireland’s horticultural sector has a farm gate value of €477m. There are over 17,000 jobs in the sector, which includes an estimated6,600people directly employed full-time with another 11,000 being indirectly employed in value added and downstream businesses. The horticultural sector is a significant aspect of the Irish agri-food sector.
Following a ruling of the High Court in September 2019, harvesting of peat from bogs greater than 30 hectares now requires all harvesters to go through a complex licensing and planning regime. Horticultural peat harvesting on Irish bogs has all but ceased and Irish peat supplies will be exhausted before September.
In terms of peat availability, this highly-specialised industry now finds itself at a critical juncture and if action is not immediately taken by the Government, growers will not have sufficient stocks of peat for the backend of the year. There is no viable alternative to peat at the moment.
“As it stands, we will be forced to import peat from Europe and the Baltics, which is at odds with the green credentials of the horticultural sector.”
The area of peatland required to supply the Irish horticultural industry is just over 1/10th of 1% (.12%) of Ireland’s total area of peatlands. To further compound the issue, there is a shortage of peat on the European market and growers are having their orders refused.
A Consultation Group was convened by the Minister earlier this year to find a workable solution for the industry. The group has met six times and produced a comprehensive document outlining workable solutions. This document was completed in May. However, no agreement can be reached between the political parties.