Senator Regina Doherty has welcomed the Government’s acknowledgement that sourcing horticultural peat is a major problem for the sector.
However, she has questioned the strength of the response issued by five Government ministers to address the crisis and also called one of the figures listed in the report "inaccurate".
"The tonnage of peat required for the mushroom industry is understated and a much greater amount is needed per annum," she said.
According to Doherty, Monday’s list of departmental actions in response to the report will not go far enough to ensure the professional horticultural sector can source enough peat for 2022.
The Fine Gael senator stated that she believed there was enough horticultural-grade peat to see growers to June. After this, she explained, peat would most likely need to be imported from countries as far away as Sri Lanka.
As Ireland is at the end of the global peat supply chain, the senator also reminded fruit farmers that high demand in other regions may consume all available supplies before they can reach Ireland.
“The political response was very, very telling. There was a major annoyance and, to be honest with you, an arrogance in the response that did not really appreciate that there was an issue here,” Senator Doherty stated after five Government ministers released a joint statement on the issue.
“I welcome the fact that the departments are willing to bring forward solutions to this crisis. However, a much more tangible and long-term plan of action is what is needed from all coalition parties and the relevant departments.
“From what I can see, this is a political solution to a very practical problem,” she added.
The senator introduced a private members bill to the Seanad late last year in a bid to re-allow the harvesting of horticultural peat.
According to the senator, last year’s bill may have “not suited a certain quarter” of the Government coalition.
“I think there are certain quarter[s] in Government who like to ignore the issue. For them, the lesser of two evils is to continue to import peat, rather than acknowledge we could extract [peat] from Ireland,” she added.
Senator Doherty asserted that she had been aware of the working group’s recommendations prior to the report’s official release on Monday.
The senator told the Irish Farmers Journal that she was “aware what the working group recommendations were before today and I know lots of other people were”.
“Today’s announcement comes very timely, with the long-awaited publication of the working group report to ‘Review the use of Peat Moss in Horticulture’ that Minister Malcolm Noonan has had sitting on his desk for months.
“It is disappointing that Minister Noonan has provided no commitment and no action plan based on the very clear recommendations in the working group report,” the senator commented.
Doherty called on the Government to acknowledge that more action is needed than was announced on Monday and has said that “redefinition” is needed on the topic of sub-30ha peat plots.