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Delayed publication of report on peat alternatives ‘very concerning’

Members of the horticulture industry will wait until the end of the month to hear the findings of the report

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7 October 2021 | 0

A delay in the publication of a highly anticipated report on peat alternatives in Ireland has been described as “very concerning” by Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy.

The report is expected to identify possible alternatives to peat and to outline the research required to produce commercially effective alternatives for the horticulture sector. Initially scheduled to be published by the end of September, the publication date has since been pushed to the end of October.

The report is being put together by a working group on horticultural peat, which was established this year. Led by independent chair Dr Munoo Prasad, the working group has been primarily tasked with considering any alternatives to peat. The group has held 11 meetings to date.

Last month, junior minister Malcolm Noonan, who has responsibility for the issue in the Department of Housing, told Carthy that the report would be completed and sent to him by the end of September.

However, it was recently confirmed by the Department of Housing that the report had not been completed by the deadline.

“The chair of the working group has indicated to the minister that the final report is at an advanced stage and will be provided to him before the end of October,” a spokesperson told the PA news agency. “The brief extension was granted by Minister Noonan following a request by the chair, who informed him that the group needed more time to finalise the report.”

Speaking to PA, Carthy called the delay “very concerning” and questioned why the publication date had been pushed back “without explanation”.

The postponement comes after Ireland imported horticultural peat for the first time since implementing the ban on peat harvesting.

The 3,600 tonnes of Latvian peat, which travelled over 3,000KMs to Ireland, is to supplement the reserve supplies of Irish peat that have now been almost exhausted, forcing the sector to import peat into Ireland at a higher cost both financially and environmentally, placing 17,000 jobs across Ireland’s horticultural sector at risk.

Many scheduled shipments from the Baltic states and other EU countries are expected over the coming weeks and months to supply Ireland’s horticultural sector.

“It’s clearly environmental and economic lunacy and therefore there needs to be urgent government action to resolve it,” continued Carthy. “I have great fears for the mushroom industry, because there is no realistic alternative at present.”

Carthy added: “In the absence of that, only two things can happen. Either peat will be imported or the mushroom sector will be exported.”

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