All political parties are being called on to support a bill introduced in the Seanad today that, if passed, will allow for the temporary resumption of peat extraction for the horticulture sector.

Growing Media Ireland (GMI), a representative group for several horticulture peat and growing media producers in Ireland, welcomed the bill published today.

GMI says that the bill is “an important step” in helping ease the pressure that is facing the horticulture sector, acknowledging the efforts of senators Regina Doherty and Robbie Gallagher in bringing the bill to the table.

“This bill is essential to protect the future of horticulture growers, the jobs they provide and the security of the food they produce.”

Horticultural peat harvesting ceased in Ireland in September 2019, following a High Court ruling that has resulted in the “effective banning” of harvesting of peat from Irish bogs greater than 30ha, GMI explained.

The group highlights that the existing multi-stage licencing and planning process is “too complex to navigate”. It has called for a single consent system “like all other EU peat producing countries”.

“The stockpiles of Irish peat have now been exhausted, forcing the sector to import horticultural peat into Ireland at a higher cost both financially and environmentally, placing over 17,000 jobs across Ireland’s horticultural sector at risk,” GMI said.

“Importing peat has resulted in hugely increased costs, which will have a real impact on the competitiveness of Ireland’s fruit and vegetable sector, and ultimately will lead to higher food prices for families.”

The group went on to stress the “considerable environmental consequences” of importing peat.

“Each shipment has significant carbon emissions as it takes 200 trucks to deliver the peat to be loaded, ships traveling 3,000km and another 200 trucks in Ireland required to unload each ship,” GMI noted.

John Neenan, the chairperson of GMI, said: “[We] welcome the publication of this bill by senator Regina Doherty and Senator Robbie Gallagher. When enacted, it will provide a fair and workable licencing system that will protect the 17,000 jobs in the sector; [prevent] the negative environmental impact of importing peat; and protecting a horticultural sector we should be seeking to support and grow, not destroy.”

“It will give the horticultural sector the space to develop alternatives for areas including mushroom growing, where none currently exist.

“Over the last number of months, we have seen politicians from all parties and independents express their opposition to Ireland becoming dependent in imported horticulture peat. They have called for protection of the jobs in the horticultural sector and promise that experts would be listened to and workable solutions found,” Neenan added.

“I now call on all of them to support this bill. If senators, TDs and ministers work together, this bill could be in law by February, just in time for the start or our season. It will have a positive impact on the entire horticulture sector and end the need for imports of horticultural peat,” he concluded.