Growers in the horticulture sector are protesting outside Leinster House in Dublin today (Wednesday, October 13).
Led by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan, the protest is highlighting the ongoing challenges around harvesting horticultural peat and its central role in the sector.
The matter will be raised in the Seanad this afternoon, where senators will “question the logic of importing peat when we could source it here” in Ireland.
‘Demise’ of the horticulture sector
“It’s another example of climate action getting it wrong,” Cullinan said.
“We held a protest on this issue last July. Since then, this government has done nothing to resolve this disastrous situation. The ministers in charge have abandoned horticulture growers.
“If action is not taken immediately, this government will ultimately be responsible for the demise of this sustainable sector.
“We fully appreciate the environmental importance of peatlands and the need to look at alternative substrates for use in the horticulture sector. However, there is currently no viable alternative to peat for the majority of operators in the commercial horticulture sector.”
Last month, some 3,600t of horticultural peat arrived from Latvia into Drogheda Port.
“This, despite a government announcement after IFA’s peat protest in July that a ‘stockpile’ of peat had been secured for the sector. This will be the first of many shipments,” the IFA said.
“Furthermore, peat will need to be imported for the mushroom sector in the coming weeks if the government does nothing.
“Peat for the mushroom sector requires fresh excavate, so in essence, a product comprising 80% water will be imported. There is no logic to it.”
Paul Murphy, IFA national horticulture chairman said that “it seems to us that what Minister Hackett is most interested in is ‘window-dressing’ for Green Party votes”.
“It appears that creating an unanticipated environmental issue elsewhere is not important, as long as peat harvesting is no longer taking place in Ireland.
“The importation of peat will increase the environmental footprint of Irish growers while placing them at a severe competitive disadvantage.”
— Irish Farmers’ Association (@IFAmedia) October 13, 2021
The IFA added that “some ministers and environmental groups are even recommending coir as an alternative despite its environmental credentials being akin to palm oil production”.
“The consultation group convened by Minister Malcolm Noonan earlier this year has met on 12 occasions. Every possible alternative has been discussed at length. The final report is still outstanding.”