Ministers remain actionless as 3,600 tonne shipment of horticultural peat arrives in Ireland and soaring prices witnessed in Tipperary
“Just under 4,000 tonnes of horticultural peat was shipped 3000km by sea from Latvia into Ireland at the weekend. 200 trucks were involved in unloading the shipment, while it is estimated that a similar number would have been involved in loading the shipment.
“It’s estimated the restrictions on the harvesting of horticultural peat mean that two such shipments each month will be needed to supply the horticultural industry as supplies dry up. “It’s ludicrous to see a situation in which peat is now being imported thousands of miles into this country, all because of inaction on the part of three Government departments to an onerous licencing system.
“This has already resulted in one Co Tipperary nursery owner telling me that a consignment of horticultural peat has cost him nearly twice as much as it would have done traditionally.
“He has lost all faith that Ministers from three Departments – Agriculture, Environment & Climate and Housing – will do anything to help the sector in time.
“We are also in danger of seeing the mushroom industry relocating if action isn’t taken soon. “On Tuesday (September 21st) Minister Malcolm Noonan appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture to discuss the matter.
“I put it to him; if he were working in an industry that was being destroyed in this manner, would he be happy with a government department that has shown no urgency and has done nothing to help them?
“I also asked if he would take comfort in waiting for working groups to meet and for reports to be published, while at the same time his livelihood is taking a nosedive?
“Despite also being asked what options he is looking at to resolve the crisis facing the sector, we were told nothing new, only that research is being arranged and that his department is waiting on a working group to issue its report on the matter at the end of the month.
“While this waiting exercise continues, the horticultural sector has been forced to rely on the importation of peat over a distance of 3,000km, while an adequate supply is available within striking distance here in Ireland.
“This is a waste of the resources of a struggling sector, while it also runs counter to our climate objectives, given the emissions that result from the unnecessary 3,000km sea trip.
“It’s baffling to see a situation in which peat is now being imported thousands of miles into this country, when less than 1% of all peat traditionally harvested is for the horticultural sector.
“Action needs to be taken in tackling issues with the dual consent system which doesn’t apply elsewhere in the EU. Thousands of jobs are at risk otherwise.”