The extraction of peat moss from certain bogs should be permitted under law to ensure that mushroom and fruit growers have sufficient supplies to relieve shortage challenges in their sectors, a report commissioned by the Department of Agriculture has suggested.

The report, which was compiled by Irish Rural Link’s Seamus Boland, put forward that Bord na Móna bogs previously used for peat extraction could be taken back into use, recognising that doing so may require the rehabilitation of these bogs to be delayed.

It was also recommended that peat extracted from above quarries to get to sand and gravel could also be used by growers.

The report was unable to determine how much peat moss is available in the State to supply mushroom and fruit growers, after those in the peat supply sectors refused to engage with the report.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue stated that the horticulture sector is critical to the Irish agri-food industry and recognised the sector’s difficulties with peat supplies.

“The extraction of peat for the Irish professional horticultural industry in recent years has been challenging from a legal and regulatory perspective,” the Minister commented on the release of the report.

Compliance necessary

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett addressed the joint Oireachtas committee on agriculture on Wednesday on the topic of peat moss shortages facing the horticulture sector.

TDs and senators urged Minister Hackett to ease the regulations around peat moss, saying that although its extraction was not banned under law, the regulations were too strict for those wishing to.

“The law is as it is and we should be encouraging everybody to comply with the law,” Minister Hackett said.

“People can become compliant if they engage,” she commented, encouraging stakeholders to reach out to the departments involved to help navigate the regulatory framework.

‘Bloody court cases’

Senator Regina Doherty accused Minister Hackett of failing to push her cabinet colleagues to introduce legislation which would ease the licensing system needed to extract and sell peat moss to growers.

No real action has been taken by the various Government ministers responsible for horticulture, peat and planning, the senator argued.

“What we are witnessing is a masterclass in procrastination. We have been going around in circles for the past number of years and we have absolutely no productive solutions to filling what you have just called the interim period before we get to beyond peat,” she said.

Mayo TD Michael Ring likened the situation of importing horticultural peat from Germany and the Baltics to the shipping of briquettes into the State.

“You are talking about alternatives, alternatives, alternatives. Why didn’t you wait until you had the alternatives [before] putting this sector under pressure?”

“You [the Green Party] have this country held up with your bloody court cases,” he said.

Minister Hackett responded that the issue was “not about” the Green Party, but about ensuring the State maintains its obligation to enforce EU and Irish law.