Growing Media Ireland (GMI), the representative group for horticultural peat and growing media producers in Ireland, has welcomed Minister Peter Burke’s comments on “supporting the exemption of peat extraction from the planning process”.

This follows the “huge shipment” of almost 4,000t of horticultural peat into Drogheda Port last month.

A “convoy” of over 200 trucks collected the freight of horticultural peat which travelled over 3,000km to Ireland from Latvia, GMI noted.

Speaking on behalf of the government at the Seanad debate on the matter yesterday (Wednesday, October 13), Minister Burke said: “I have no issue with supporting the exemption of peat extraction from the planning process. However, clear policy is needed to provide an alternative regime to be put forward to ensure that EU environmental standards are met.”

Increased cost of importing

Yesterday, horticultural growers, led by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan, protested outside Leinster House. Along with this, GMI has welcomed the “cross-party support in the Seanad for a fair and workable system to allow for the resumption of harvesting to alleviate the adverse impact on the sector”.

“All sectors of Irish horticulture including mushroom and small fruit and vegetable growers in north Dublin and throughout rural Ireland are severely affected,” GMI said.

“The increased cost of importing peat will inevitably be passed on to consumers and result in a rise in food prices and loss of competitiveness.

“With peat available to be harvested within close proximity of the processing facilities in Ireland, it makes no sense to continue importing at a heavy cost not only to producers and growers, but environmentally.”

‘Practical approach’ to phasing out peat use

John Neenan, GMI chairman stressed that horticultural peat is “essential for growers”.

“We need a fair and workable licensing system introduced immediately that will provide for the phasing out of harvesting over a transition period to 2030, allowing alternatives to be developed within our industry,” he explained.

“If we don’t have a fair system in place before the end of the year, Ireland’s horticulture sector will inevitably lose out; as our competition in the UK and the Netherlands will race ahead.

“The rest of the EU has taken a practical approach to phasing out peat use in horticulture.

“The situation in Ireland at present is we have to import peat which causes greater environmental damage than sourcing it at home with a workable licensing system. We need at least two shipments of around 4,000t each month to meet growers’ needs.”