Latest Laois News: Horticulturists in Midlands call on Government to solve Peat Crisis

Latest Laois News: Horticulturists in Midlands call on Government to solve Peat Crisis

Government called upon to head off perfect storm in Horticulture sector

The government ban on the harvesting of peat for the Irish Horticultural Industry, coupled with the soaring shipping costs for the importation of substitute peat from the Baltics, spells a perfect storm for Ireland’s gardeners. 

A Horticultural group, made up of some of the largest growers in the business, say they are deeply concerned that they will lose their entire growing season due to what they describe as “Government inaction on the real crisis in the industry, coupled with a global shortage of stock”. 

They have voiced their dismay at the long-awaited proposals for the use of peat in the horticultural industry in Ireland, saying they pinned their hopes for 2022 on it and have slammed it as “pathetic, useless and unworkable”. 

Larry Doran, Chairperson of the Kildare Growers describes the Government response to the Final Report of the specially convened ‘Working Group’ ,established to try and provide Industry led proposals, as a ‘fudge’ and a ‘greenwash’, and claims plant nurseries are in ‘the battle of their lives for survival’.

“The Government Action Plan, in response to our report, is pathetic. It is an absolute insult to our hard work. We have put in a full year of heavy lifting, preparing reports and presenting real and workable alternatives. To say we are stunned by their response is an understatement to say the least”.

Photo including Larry Doran and Kieran Dunne together with Peat Expert Anna Kavanagh

It actually beggars’ belief that this is the best this Government can come up with in response to an absolute crisis in the Horticultural industry. Is the Green Party with a Minister for Horticulture, a Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform and a Minister for Transport, Climate, Environment and Communications going to rubbish a report commissioned by Mr. Malcolm Noonan T.D. and allow a young vibrant industry to vanish into obscurity?”

“The Working Group consisted of many industry experts who have a thorough knowledge of the Horticultural Industry, both professionally and practically, and to completely ignore their findings and proposals is absolutely incredible. The Final Report which is a cumulation of months and months of hard work by members of the Working Group who gave generously of their time to address openly and fairly their concerns regarding the issue of the use of peat in the horticultural industry in Ireland”.

“The Government never even discussed its proposals with the Working Group. This is hard to fathom”.

“We appreciate the concerns regarding the use of peat, but the industry members stressed the need for a just transition and all members agreed a phasing out of peat by 2030 or 2035 at the latest, with the provision that alternative materials were available. This has been totally ignored in the government’s action plan”.

“We battled last year to source Horticultural Peat. We are facing a tougher struggle this year. We are already on the ‘back foot’ as we came into 2022 with a depleted stock. Bord na Mona has indicated it may have up to 2,000 tonnes of high-grade horticultural peat for us. Our government thinks this is sufficient; we the growers know it is miniscule, it is useless, it wouldn’t even serve our needs in the Kildare Growers let alone the wider industry”.

“This has to be resolved urgently, we literally have weeks to ensure another season is not lost. Otherwise, it will mean increased imports from Baltic countries of inferior peat quality. Information to date indicates shipping costs are set to increase threefold and also suppliers have indicated that there may be a cap on supplies due to world demand for peat composts. Urgent action is now a priority for our government, particularly by the Green Party with three cabinet ministries who have the wherewithal to resolve this ongoing crisis”.

“It is not acceptable that this industry is facing a crisis of this scale and this Government is prepared to accept the importation of poorer quality peat, higher carbon footprints and greater effects on global warming while we could access superior local materials until such time as we have viable alternatives”.

The Kildare Growers say they welcome the commission of an expert on planning to provide free advice to those wishing to achieve regulatory compliance for peat extraction but would like assurance that this will help speed up the system and allow for sufficient peat extraction this year.

They also welcome the support for research into the development to alternatives but stress “it is not possible to do this overnight and we need horticultural peat on a decreasing scale up to 2030 or 2035 until such time that these alternatives are available”.

“This Government is paying lip service to the Horticultural Industry which we find incredibly insulting. We are worth millions to the Exchequer, we employ large numbers of people as well as providing a stunning stock of plants, flowers, trees and shrubs, we’re as ‘green’ as you can get and frankly, we deserve better. We expect better and we demand better. If the Government doesn’t take urgent immediate action, our industry faces extinction, we will simply collapse”.