Growing Media Ireland (GMI) has said actions proposed by the government to support horticultural growers “will cause environmental catastrophe and job losses”.

The final report of the working group on the Use of Peat Moss in Horticulture has been published this week (Monday, January 17).

GMI chairperson, John Neenan, said:

“We are outraged at the government’s response to the horticultural peat crisis as the working group’s report recommendations have been completely ignored.

“The so-called ‘series of actions‘ from the government will have severe environmental consequences with Ireland now fully reliant on importing large shipments all the way from the Baltic,“ Neenan continued.

Approximately 60% of the value of Irish horticulture is currently dependent on peat with the mushroom, amenity and soft fruit sectors being most reliant, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

GMI said that the government has not addressed the transition period from peat to alternatives by 2035 as recommended in the publication, including a model for the planning and harvesting of peat for horticulture.

The group also noted that the announced 2,000t made available by Bord na Móna for horticulture only covers two weeks of required stock for the mushroom sector.

“We’ve had at least 40,000t of horticultural peat imported into the island of Ireland since September,” the group said.

GMI has criticised the government’s “large-scale imports” approach stating that the 17,000 jobs within the sector “remain at risk”.

“The existing legal framework is unworkable and will not deliver horticultural peat in the short to medium term for Irish growers and producers.”

According to report recommendations, amending current legislative provisions for large-scale peat extraction, sufficient quantities of Irish peat could be available over the short-term from “existing ecologically destroyed bogs that were prepared for harvesting for the last few years and are lying fallow”.

“We need the working group recommendations to be adopted by the government to help the horticultural sector which is already on its knees.

“A clear plan, with definite timelines, outlining how the recommendations in the report will be implemented,” GMI said.

The group has invited Minister of State for hertitage, Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett and environment minister, Eamon Ryan to discuss the issue.

“If the government fails to allow peat harvesting for Irish horticulture for the 2022 growing season, we may see the complete demise of the sector with small growers shutting their doors,” the group concluded.