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Government announces supports for growers dependent on peat

Image by martaposemuckel from Pixabay

Independent expert to assess levels and suitability of current stocks of peat across all suppliers, including Bord na Móna

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Horticulture

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17 January 2022 | 0

Ministers in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) have announced a series of actions to support Irish horticultural growers who are dependent on peat.

This follows the publication of the final report from the Working Group on the Use of Peat Moss in the Horticultural Industry, which had been tasked with examining potential of alternatives to peat for the horticultural industry.

Led by independent chair Dr Munoo Prasad, the group was established last year following a series of High Court decisions which determined that large scale peat harvesting required planning permission and licensing by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Minster Michael Noonan said the joint programme of action “draws on the important work done by Dr Prasad and the Working Group on Peat in Horticulture.”

The DAFM worked with the Departments of Environment, Climate and Communications, and Housing, Local Government and Heritage, to develop proposals that support the €469 million horticulture industry.

  • the commissioning of an independent expert to assess levels and suitability of current stocks of peat across all suppliers, including Bord na Móna, for the Irish horticultural sector
  • the commissioning of experts on planning to provide free advice to those who wish to extract peat in a manner which is compliant with the relevant regulations on sub-30-hectare bogs
  • research to deliver alternatives to peat for the horticulture sector

Small-scale extraction

The DAFM said some level of import cannot be ruled out in the short term because “this has always been a factor” in the peat industry in Ireland. However, it said there is a regulatory pathway to legally compliant extraction and the fastest route for the domestic industry appears to be small-scale extraction on previously drained sub-30-hectare bogs.

“The ministers will commission the services of experts on planning matters to provide free advice to those wishing to achieve regulatory compliance for extraction of horticultural peat for supply to the domestic horticulture industry,” the DAFM said.

“Bord na Móna has provided assurance that the equipment required to mix such peat, should it become available, remains in the country.”

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pippa Hackett intends to “commission an independent expert to work quickly with growers, and suppliers, including Bord na Móna, to ascertain exactly what stocks are available. Bord na Móna have committed to working with an independent expert and the growers to see if any of the stocks of peat they have on hand would be of use to the horticulture sector.”

Martin Heydon, Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Development, recently “committed research funding from this department of €1.69 million to a research project ‘Beyond Peat’ to be undertaken by Teagasc to investigate potential alternatives to peat,” he said… “These alternatives will take time to come to fruition and growers will continue to need access to a viable growing medium in the interim to protect these valuable jobs and sector.”

Not far enough

However, leader of the Seanad, Regina Doherty said that measures announced today are welcome, but do not go far enough.

“This plan will by no means bring certainty to the horticultural growers who need peat, the most basic raw material for the 2022 growing season and beyond. The most significant message from today’s announcement is that the government finally recognises that there is a problem here and that it threatens the existence of the horticultural industry.

“The growers that I have been working with estimate that there is a sufficient supply to keep them going until June due to the peat imported in the latter end of 2021. No other business could survive with this kind of uncertainty. What we need is a solid plan to allow for the extraction of Irish peat, from Irish bogs, for the Irish horticultural sector.”

The senator concluded that this is “a political solution to a very practical problem.”

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