Officials from the three departments of Agriculture, Environment & Climate and Housing addressed the Joint Oireachtas Committee (JOC) on Agriculture on Tuesday regarding the issue of the shortage of horticultural grade peat.

The IFA has said that the committee meeting has produced no workable solutions for the peat shortage experienced by Irish growers and that government action is needed to rectify the issue.

We need political leadership here

The IFA has also called for the committee to resume proceedings as soon as possible, whilst members of the Oireachtas committee have suggested that the ministers of the three departments represented address the committee directly next week.

“The three ministers need to get together and sort this out. We need political leadership here,” stated IFA president Tim Cullinan.

“We are sick of everyone blaming everyone while small growers and substantial businesses who provide a lot of employment are being put out of business by our Government. It’s a total travesty,” he said.

Farmers have had difficulties in sourcing peat for growing fresh produce since the September 2019 High Court decision requiring the harvest of peat from areas greater than 30ha in size to be cleared by licensing and planning procedures seen by the IFA as overly complex and convoluted.

Remaining supplies

The IFA has claimed that the quantities of remaining Irish peat stocks were not fully clarified by Minister Hackett, neither in the statement she issued to announce the stocks nor in her department comments at the Oireachtas committee meeting.

“The industry would like clarity on this peat stock as it was not clarified during the JOC meeting. If it is stockpiled peat, it will not be suitable for casing for the mushroom industry as the mushroom industry requires fresh peat as a component of casing,” the IFA president declared.

Importing peat

Over the course of the last Oireachtas committee meeting, the import of peat was proposed as a temporary fix to the shortage

“As it stands, we will be forced to import peat from Europe and the Baltics, which is at odds with the green credentials of the horticultural sector,” Cullinan stressed.

According to the IFA, the area required to supply the entire sector with peat would only account for 0.12% of the country’s peatlands.