Kildare Growers appeal for government action on harvesting of growing peat
“We are being placed in an impossible situation," says Larry Doran, chairperson of the Kildare Growers
24 March 2022
The Kildare Growers are calling for the Irish government action on the harvesting of Irish growing peat, stating there is no viable alternative that can replace peat and importing peat or other materials is not the solution.
The horticulture group, which includes some of the largest growers in the industry, has called on the government to immediately enact emergency legislation to allow harvesting of indigenous peat.
Growers fear for the upcoming season due to the lack of availability of Baltic supplies, which, coupled with government restrictions on harvesting Irish horticultural peat, means complete lack of access for the horticultural industry.
“Since the establishment of the Working Group on the issue of peat in the Irish Horticulture Industry a year ago, the horticultural industry, worth some €0.50 billion, has tried desperately hard to outline the crisis that the sector is facing if Irish peat is no longer available for a transitionary period,” said Larry Doran, chairperson of the Kildare Growers. “The current position is that there is no viable alternative that can replace peat and importing peat or other materials is not the solution.”
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.
In response, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (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
Doran said that while the industry has demonstrated its commitment to reducing its peat usage by using alternatives such as wood fibre, it requires more support from the government: “The government ignored the recommendations of the Working Group submitted in October 2021 and came out with their own action plan in January 2022 which was not discussed with the Working Group members or industry stakeholders.
“Since then, there has been no progress or support for the industry except the provision of funding for research and development which will be in vain if the government continues to ignore this prosperous home industry.”
Doran added that rising food prices endorse the case for home-grown food and crops, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine emphasises the importance of home grown produce and food security, as evidenced by the Minister for Agriculture encouraging an increase in grain production.
“It is the height of irony that the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue is asking farmers to grow grain due to the worsening terrible war in Ukraine and we are not allowed to harvest peat to grow our crops,” Doran continued. “His call underlines the need for the agricultural sector to be self-sufficient and backs up our calls for our industry to have a fair, just and workable transition away from peat growing media.”
The chairperson of the Kildare Growers said he appreciates the concerns regarding the use of peat “our industry members have stressed the need for a just transition with all members agreeing a phasing out of peat by 2030 or 2035 at the latest, with the provision that alternative materials were available.”
“Our government has driven us to import peat stocks, with all the negative environmental implications this brings, but now we can’t even get the supplies we need from the Baltics. We are being placed in an impossible situation.”