Workable system needed to phase out peat, says Irish horticulture group
A fair and workable system is needed to phase out peat harvesting by 2030, according to a horticultural representative group.
Growing Media Ireland (GMI) called for the implementation of a transition system to allow time for horticulturalists to develop alternatives.
According to them, all sectors of Irish horticulture - including mushroom and small fruit growers - are affected by the current planning system for peat extraction.
A 2019 High Court ruling decreed peat extraction in areas over 30 hectares can only take place if planning permission is obtained. This has resulted in controversy due to large units of peat being imported from other European countries such as Latvia.
In a statement, GMI said, "With peat available to be harvested within close proximity of the processing facilities in Ireland it makes no sense to continue importing peat at a heavy cost not only to producers and growers but environmentally."
In a recent Seanad debate on the matter, Minister Peter Burke claimed he had "no issue" supporting the exemption of peat extraction from the planning process.
He said, "However, clear policy is needed to provide an alternative regime to be put forward to ensure that EU environmental standards are met."
GMI Chairman, John Neenan, called peat "essential" for growers and the security of food they produce.
He said, "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 4,000 tonnes each month to meet growers needs."
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