Tipperary Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne has told Minster of State with responsibility for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, how the ban on harvesting horticultural peat is already impacting the industry in Co. Tipperary.

He warned of a “crisis” unless the warnings of the industry are listened to.

“Before the ban on the harvesting of peat came into effect, the horticultural industry had been using a minuscule amount of all peat harvested by Bord na Móna,” deputy Browne said.

“But the fixed position Minster Hackett and [Heritage] Minister Malcolm Noonan have taken when it comes to reducing harvesting on our bogs, has resulted in horticultural peat being imported from abroad, creating a significant carbon footprint, and increasing the costs of the product itself.”

Cost increase for importing horticultural peat

The Tipperary TD said that he has been told by a nursery owner in his home county that the cost of acquiring peat has increased from €24 per cubic metre to €37.

Deputy Browne told Minister Hackett that he feels the sector has been abandoned:

“Similar challenges are also on the minds of the mushroom sector who are absolutely dependent upon horticultural peat.

“Right now there are no viable alternatives to horticultural peat apart from importing it, which is a point made by Teagasc.

“The alternatives that are available are not suitable for the industry’s needs, and many substandard substitutes are not farmed sustainably where they come from,” he added.

Environmental impact

The Sinn Féin deputy claimed that there would be little or no environmental improvement by preventing the harvesting of horticultural peat, as the amount of it being done is “miniscule”. He continued:

“It’s like the forestry sector. How do you expect to attract new entrants to a market which is valuable in terms of carbon sequestration – when the sector is left to wither on the vine?

“Are we going to become a country that willingly reverses a situation in which our mushroom industry employs over 3,000 people and exports over 80% of its produce to the UK?

“If current policy persists this sector may decide it is better to move to the continent altogether.

“The harvesting of horticultural peat is different from the harvesting of peat as a fossil fuel, and must be permitted in a sustainable manner,” he concluded.