Minister of State for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett has been warned of the impact the ban on harvesting peat will have on the mushroom sector.

The minister met with Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan and members of the IFA’s Mushroom Committee today (Tuesday, June 8) to discuss a number of issues in the sector.

The issue of the ban on peat harvesting on some bogs was highlighted as a significant problem for the sector.

Due to a Supreme Court ruling last year, there has been no harvesting of peat on bogs over 30ha. The IFA argues that the mushroom industry is “very reliant on the high-grade peat as no viable alternative is available”.

The association’s delegation told Minister Hackett that the ban on peat harvesting on these bogs “threatens the future viability of the Irish mushroom sector”.

“We called on the minister to introduce measures to ensure the resumption of the harvesting of horticultural peat immediately,” Cullinan said after the meeting.

The delegation also called on the minister to introduce a measure to financially incentivise the use of spent mushroom compost.

“Spent mushroom compost is a key part of the agri bio-circular economy and can help to reduce dependence and use of artificial fertilisers.”

The IFA went on to highlight the lack of labour in the mushroom sector, with Cullinan saying: “There’s a shortage of skilled, semi-skilled and manual labour for the sector.

“This is having a serious effect on the efficiencies of businesses and the subsequent viability of the sector,” the IFA president added.

He noted that, according to Teagasc figures, 1,195 new employees are required on mushrooms farms in 2021.

Cullinan called for the reopening of the General Employment Permit Scheme to help alleviate the labour situation in the sector.

The mushroom industry is the largest horticultural sector in Ireland. It has a farm gate value of €119 million, of which approximately 85% is exported to the UK. It employs over 3,500 people.