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Resumption of horticultural peat harvesting raised at working group meeting

17,000 jobs are at risk due to the 2019 High Court ruling



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8 April 2021

The resumption of peat harvesting, by way of derogation of emergency legislation, was the focus of a second meeting of a working group on horticulture peat.

Peat producers and vegetable, mushroom and nursery growers are being forced to import peat from the Baltic states, Canada, Russia and the UK after the High Court ruled that milling peat on bogs over 30ha requires planning permission from An Bord Pleanala and an EPA licence.

The working group, which is comprised of representatives from the Department of Housing, state agencies, industry stakeholders and environmental non-government organisations, has been warned that 17,000 jobs are at risk due to the 2019 High Court ruling. Calls are now being made for a derogation or legislative amendment to save the 2021 harvest.

“The Department officials appear to definitely rule out a derogation and are not over positive on emergency legislation,” said John Neenan of Growing Media Ireland (GMI) to the Farming Independent. GMI represents most of Ireland’s horticultural peat producers.

“As far as I am aware, there is no legislative proposal available from the members to deal with this at present. However, GMI is working with their legal advisers and hopefully will have proposals available shortly.”

Bord na Móna suspended peat harvesting operations last year following the landmark High Court decision. It then formally ended all peat harvesting on its lands in January of this year.

It is understood the closure of BNM’s peat division means CO2 emissions from peatlands in Ireland will reduce by over 97%. Just 0.12% of total Irish bogland has been developed for horticultural peat harvesting. The annual CO2 emissions from this area is 0.15% of total Irish emissions.

Without Bord na Móna, many Irish horticultural peat producers and vegetable, mushroom and nursery growers have had to import peat from across the globe.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey said: “Importing peat is a nonsense. We’re importing the same product from another European country that doesn’t seem to have the same directives applied to them as are being applied to us on the same bogs.”

“The main issue arising is the emergency facing the horticultural industry due to the non-availability of Irish peat moss and the absolute necessity of horticultural peat harvesting to resume in 2021,” said Neenan. “Otherwise, supplies of peat moss will be imported from the Baltic States, Canada or Russia and growing media is already currently being imported from the UK.

“Collectively, what the industry wants is a return to horticultural peat harvesting in 2021 – whether this is by way of emergency legislation or a temporary derogation (short term) and an amendment in the current legislation to allow peat harvesting continue, subject to an EPA licence, and based on a phased reduction on peat use in line with the development of responsibly sourced peat alternatives.

Neenan added: “Harvesting should be carried out in a responsible way and in line with good practice and under an EPA licence.”

A third meeting of the horticulture peat working group will take place later this month.

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