The IFA has called for an immediate resumption of horticultural peat harvesting, as well as the introduction of measures to aid in the supply of harvest workers.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said the IFA has called on Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O'Brien to introduce measures to ensure the resumption of the harvesting of horticultural peat immediately.

“Due to Bord na Móna’s shock decision to end the harvesting of horticulture peat with immediate effect last December and a restriction on harvesting peat from areas over 30ha, many businesses in the nursery stock sector in particular are struggling to source sufficient peat supplies,” he said.

Meeting with minister

The call comes after the IFA president met with Minister O’Brien, along with a delegation from the IFA’s mushroom and nursery stock committees.

“It’s very contradictory and hypocritical 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 continued.

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

“This would also have adverse knock-on effects for the tillage, poultry and forestry sectors, resulting in a considerable blow to the rural economy,” stressed Cullinan.

Labour shortage

The mushroom and nursery stock growers also voiced concerns on the worker deficit on the harvesting side of the horticulture sector, with the mushroom industry particularly affected.

The IFA has claimed that the reopening of the successful pilot General Employment Permit Scheme was necessary to alleviate the labour crisis in horticulture.

The comments come on the back of the Teagasc mushroom industry labour survey. The report found that 1,195 new workers would be required to fill vacancies on Irish mushroom farms in 2021.