One Independent TD has described the government’s response to the horticultural sector crisis as “an insult” to the industry.
The government has published a working paper to address the challenges concerning the supply of peat for the professional horticultural industry in Ireland.
Sean Canney TD believes the response is a “slight” to all those who took part in the Peat Working Group.
He stated that the report – which the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage published – ignores the working group’s recommendations.
“It is an unbelievable lack of real response or action by government to the Peat Working Group report. The working paper does not address the need to have transition arrangements in place in the short term.”
Horticultural sector crisis
“The government working paper is full of words and aspirations but no solutions resulting in Ireland being forced to import peat at a huge cost to the industry and the environment.”
“In the government’s series of actions or inactions, there is no reference to the transition to alternatives by 2035 as recommended in the working group report.”
“The government has completely ignored the transition period required from peat to alternatives. This includes a single consent model which deals with the critical issue of planning and harvesting of peat for horticulture.”
He stated that the existing legal framework is “unworkable”. Therefore, he believes it will not deliver horticultural peat in the short to medium term for Irish growers and producers.
“The government is completely ignoring the hobby market, despite the negative impact this will have. It will lead to significant imports from the Baltic countries to meet the demand for this market in Ireland.”
He said the government noted that Bord na Mona would make 2,000 tonnes available for horticulture. However, he argued that this equates to just two weeks of required stock for the mushroom sector.
“At least 40,000 tonnes of horticultural peat has been imported into the island of Ireland since September.”
17,000 jobs at risk
The deputy warned that 17,000 jobs in the horticultural sector remain at risk. He said there is “no alternative” in the government plan except large-scale imports.
Canney called on the government to adopt the working group recommendations to help the horticultural sector.
He said the industry is “already on its knees” and needs a “clear” action plan, with definite timelines, outlining how to implement the report’s recommendations.
“To refuse to allow peat harvesting for Irish horticulture for the 2022 growing season, the government are planning the demise of the sector with small growers shutting their doors,” he concluded.