The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Local Fingal TD, Darragh O’Brien has welcomed the announcement of a series of actions to support Irish horticultural growers who are dependent on peat.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage worked with the Departments of Environment, Climate and Communications and Agriculture, Food and the Marine on proposals which will ultimately support the €469 million horticulture industry, the people employed and the many families that depend on this important sector.
The proposals which will be progressed 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 new research to deliver alternatives to peat for the horticulture sector.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “I am very aware through the significant amount of work which has been undertaken by our respective Department’s that there is no easy solution to this matter. We have to address the short-term issue of supply, the medium term one of future access to peat and also the longer-term issue of replacement with alternatives.
“The professional horticultural industry makes a huge contribution to the Irish economy, in terms of employment, of food security and in sustaining a whole range of other downstream businesses. We need to stand with our Irish growers, and give them help and support to access the modest supplies of peat that they need while realistic alternatives to peat as a growing medium are still in development. This must be done in a way that complies with our planning and licensing laws, and I am glad to see that expert help will be provided as part of this programme of Actions, to help growers engage with and navigate the regulatory system.
“Our long-term goal is to develop suitable peat-free alternatives for growers that are economically and environmentally sustainable. These alternatives will take time to come to fruition and growers will continue to need access to a viable growing medium in the interim to protect these valuable jobs and sector,” he concluded.