The government is being called on to publish a timeline for the resumption of peat harvesting for the horticulture sector.

Growing Media Ireland (GMI), the representative group for most growing media producers in Ireland, has said the government must “publish a clear implementation plan with achievable and concrete timelines” for the recommendations to resume peat extraction in an independent report.

The report, produced by an independent working group, will be brought to cabinet next week, according to Minister of State with responsibility for heritage Malcolm Noonan, who spoke this week during a debate in the Seanad.

“Ireland currently faces a sector-wide financial and environmental crisis due to the prevention of peat production.”

According to GMI, a total of 17,000 jobs across Ireland’s horticulture sector are at risk, with massive reserves of horticultural peat being imported “with higher cost both financially and environmentally”.

The group highlighted: “There are considerable consequences when importing peat. In September, a huge shipment of horticultural peat totaling almost 4,000t arrived in Ireland.

“A convoy of over 200 trucks was required to collect the peat, which then travelled over 3,000km to Ireland from Latvia, before discharging its cargo into another 200 trucks at a port in Ireland.”

A shipment of this scale will be required every two weeks on average in the spring, GMI claimed.

“This will have a direct impact on the competitiveness of Ireland’s fruit and vegetable sector and will ultimately lead to higher food prices for families across Ireland.”

GMI also called on politicians to support the Horticultural Peat Bill – which was introduced to the Seanad recently – stressing that the bill will be fully compliant with EU law and would provide safeguards expected by the EU.

John Molloy, vice-chairperson of GMI, said: “We welcome Minister Noonan’s commitment to publish the working group report and we are calling on government to publish a clear plan, with definite timelines, outlining how recommendations in the report will be implemented.”

He added: “The sudden effective prohibition of all peat harvesting across Ireland threatens a total of 17,000 jobs across the country’s horticulture sector, as peat is a critical element for growing many fruits and vegetables.

“The vast volumes being imported to meet the current demand from growers results in higher financial costs, in addition to the environmental impact of having to transport peat from 3,000km away.

“We look forward to the publication of the Working Group report into peat harvesting in Ireland in the coming week,” Molloy concluded.