The priority of the peat consultation group must be the immediate resumption of harvesting horticultural peat, IFA horticulture chair Paul Brophy has said ahead of of the group's first meeting on Thursday.

The Irish horticulture sector is a significant contributor to the Irish economy, with a farmgate value of €437m, the IFA said, adding that it employs an estimated 6,600 people, while a further 11,000 are employed in downstream businesses.

Brophy recently addressed the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture meeting and called for the urgent introduction of new legislation to allow horticultural peat harvesting to resume.

“It’s very contradictory of the Oireachtas joint committee on climate action to recommend the expansion of the horticulture sector to avail of opportunities for import substitution and farm diversification, while the native raw material is being reduced,” he said.

No viable alternative

Brophy said that there is no viable alternative to peat in sections of the commercial horticulture sector.

As a major segment of the Irish horticulture sector relies on peat, particularly the mushroom and ornamental sectors, the ending of peat harvesting will have a negative impact, the IFA has said.

“Producers will either have to close their business or import peat, which would add extra cost to their business.

“In the current market environment, it would be impossible to retrieve these costs from the market. This would also have adverse knock-on effects for the tillage, poultry and forestry sectors, resulting in a considerable blow to the rural economy,” Brophy said.