Seventeen-thousand jobs across Ireland’s horticulture sector are at risk due to the sudden effective prohibition of all peat harvesting across Ireland, according to Growing Media Ireland (GMI).

GMI, which represents the majority of horticultural peat and growing media producers in Ireland, said Ireland currently faces a “sector-wide financial and environmental crisis” due to the prevention of resuming peat production.

The group highlighted that the “vast volumes of peat” being imported to meet the current demand from horticulture growers results in higher financial costs and the environmental impact of having to transport peat from 3,000km away.

Speaking in advance of the publication of the Oireachtas working group report on peat harvesting in Ireland in the coming week, GMI called on Government to deliver a clear implementation plan, with timelines to address these issues.

Peat importation

A spokesperson described the “considerable consequences” of the current practice of importing peat into Ireland to fill demand.

“In September, a huge shipment of horticultural peat totalling almost 4,000t arrived in Ireland. A convoy of over 200 trucks was required to collect the peat, which then travelled over 3,000km to Ireland from Latvia before discharging its cargo into another 200 trucks at a port in Ireland."

To meet the massive demand for peat in spring 2022, when growers’ production ramps up, GMI said a “shipment will be required every two weeks on average from abroad”.

The group warned that such activity will have a direct impact on the competitiveness of Ireland’s fruit and vegetable sector and will ultimately lead to higher food prices.

Horticultural peat bill

GMI also welcomed the support from the majority of senators speaking on the horticultural peat bill, recently introduced by Senator Regina Doherty.

GMI says the Horticultural Peat Bill complies fully with EU law. \Philip Doyle

The representative group described the bill as legislation which complies fully with EU law and provides the safeguards expected by the EU.

“The bill also recognises the High Court’s call that any new system established to allow the harvesting of horticultural peat be based on primary, not secondary, legislation.”

Plan needed

Speaking at the Seanad debate on the bill, Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said the working group report on peat harvesting would be brought before Cabinet next week.

Growing Media Ireland vice-chair John Molloy said: “We welcome Minister Noonan’s commitment to publishing the working group report and we are calling on Government to publish a clear plan, with definite timelines, outlining how recommendations in the report will be implemented.”