Ahead of the first meeting of the Peat Consultation group taking place, IFA Horticulture Chairman Paul Brophy said the priority of the consultation group must be the resumption of the harvesting of horticultural peat immediately.

The Irish horticulture sector is a significant contributor to the Irish economy, with a farm gate value of €437 million. It employs an estimated 6,600 people, while a further 11,000 are employed in downstream businesses.

Paul Brophy recently addressed the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture meeting and called for the urgent introduction of new legislation to allow horticultural peat harvesting to resume.

“It’s very contradictory of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action to recommend the expansion of the horticulture sector to avail of opportunities for import substitution and farm diversification, while the native raw material is being reduced,” he said.

Paul Brophy stressed that there is no viable alternative to peat in sections of the commercial horticulture sector.

As a major segment of the Irish horticulture sector relies on peat, particularly the mushroom and ornamental sectors, the ending of peat harvesting will have a negative impact.

“Producers will either have to close their business or import peat, which would add extra cost to their business. In the current market environment, it would be impossible to retrieve these costs from the market. This would also have adverse knock-on effects for the tillage, poultry and forestry sectors, resulting in a considerable blow to the rural economy.”