Farmers have welcomed comments made by An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on Friday in which he acknowledged there was no viable alternative to peat for the horticulture sector and that the Government needed to find a solution to the issue.

The IFA is now calling on Minister Malcolm Noonan to publish the final report from the peat consultation group, he established.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said: “Any further inaction on this issue will lead to the demise of the horticultural sector. Since our last protest in October, the Government has done nothing to resolve the issue.

“Yesterday, the Government published the proposed emissions targets in the Climate Action Plan. At the same time, the horticultural sector is being forced to import peat from the Baltics and increase its environmental footprint.”

He said the IFA and its affected members fully appreciate the environmental importance of peatlands and the need to look at alternative substrates for use in the horticulture sector. However, he said, unfortunately, there is currently no viable alternative to peat for most operators.

IFA horticulture chair Paul Brophy added: “If no solution is found, shipments of imported peat will continue to serve our sustainable horticulture sector. Notwithstanding the carbon footprint associated with transporting imported peat, it should also be noted that Baltic peat can shrink at up to twice the rate of Irish peat, thus emitting more carbon as a result. This is because it is younger peat and breaks down faster.

“It appears that creating an unanticipated environmental issue elsewhere is not important, so long as peat harvesting is no longer taking place in Ireland. The importation of peat will increase the environmental footprint of Irish growers while placing them at a severe competitive disadvantage,” said Brophy.

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