Mixed reaction to peat report

There has been mixed responses to the long-awaited final report of Ireland's peat shortage with a local TD happy with the outcome and the IFA dismissing it as "not workable".

The report of the peat working group convened by Minister Malcolm Noonan was published this afternoon, alongside an Action Plan to implement these findings.

"The Action Plan does not stress the urgency of the situation and it’s not workable," claim the IFA.

IFA Horticulture Chairman Paul Brophy said that the Action Plan is extremely disappointing for growers. “The final report is outstanding since October 20th and it’s contradictory that an Action Plan does not conform with the report’s recommendations.”

"The Plan will do nothing other than lead to the demise of the sector. It doesn’t indicate how the current producers of the key raw material can become fully compliant and continue to service the industry needs. IFA is calling for it to be scrapped and re-evaluated immediately," he said.

Three government departments, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), the Departments of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), and Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Housing)came together to develop proposals that include: the commissioning of an independent expert to assess levels and suitability of current stocks of peat across all suppliers, including Bord na Móna, for the Irish horticultural sector; the commissioning of experts on planning to provide free advice to those who wish to extract peat in a manner which is compliant with the relevant regulations on sub-30 hectare bogs; and research to deliver alternatives to peat for the horticulture sector.

Welcoming the report, Senator Robbie Gallagher said: “Growers need certainty about the supply of peat in the short term. An independent expert will work quickly with growers, and suppliers, including Bord na Móna, to ascertain exactly what stocks are available and the suitability of those stocks. Some level of import cannot be ruled out in the short term because this has always been a factor in the peat industry in Ireland.

“The fastest route for the domestic industry appears to be small-scale extraction on previously drained sub-30 hectare bogs. The services of experts on planning matters will provide free advice to those wishing to achieve regulatory compliance for extraction of horticultural peat for supply to the domestic horticulture industry. Bord na Móna has provided assurance that the equipment required to mix such peat, should it become available, remains in the country.”

The Fianna Fáil man said the long-term goal is to develop suitable peat-free alternatives for growers that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

"Research funding of €1.69m has been committed to a research project ‘Beyond Peat’ to be undertaken by Teagasc to investigate potential alternatives to peat. The industry itself, locally, is also working on possible alternatives.”