An IFA horticulture delegation met with Minister Simon Coveney and Senator Regina Doherty last Friday on Sunglow Nurseries, Lusk, Co. Dublin. IFA worked closely with Senator Doherty last year to progress the issue of peat supply for the Irish horticultural market and this meeting further discussed the issue of peat and wider issues in the horticultural sector.
IFA President Tim Cullinan said it is hypercritical that our Irish horticultural market is reliant on imported peat as a growing media at present. Irish growers are under severe pressure and hugely frustrated by the lack of progress on the issue.
In January, the long-awaited final report of the peat working group convened by Minister Malcolm Noonan was published, alongside an action plan to implement these findings. Nothing has happened since these announcements were made.
One of the actions points in January was for a report to be published by an independent expert assessing current peat stocks, requirements for the Irish sector and to look at potential sub 30ha sites is due to be published by the end of July. This cannot be delayed any further.
IFA Field Vegetable and Protected Crop Vice Chairman Martin Flynn said growers want to be fully complaint and to find a solution. As the Minister alluded to at the meeting ‘food security cannot be jeopardised for climate policy’.
We need political leadership here. We are sick of everyone blaming everyone while small growers and substantial businesses who provide a lot of employment are being put out of business by our government. It’s a total travesty,” he said’.
Other issued that were raised in the meeting included, the input costs, the Horticulture Exceptional Aid Package, carbon tax relief for protected crop growers, the establishment of the office of fairness and transparency and labour issues in the sector.
The fact that soft fruit growers especially those with heated glass were excluded for the Horticulture Exceptional Aid Package was discussed. IFA raised this when the scheme was first announced back in April. Soft fruit growers are combatting the same input costs as all other horticultural growers and those with heated glass even more so. IFA are calling for this to be revisited.
A relief on carbon tax for protected crop producers who reuse the vast majority of the CO2 generated for plants to enhance crop production was also discussed. It is the perfect example of a ‘bicircular economy’ and we must reward growers and recognise their contributions in this regard. “Without immediate Government intervention to address the above issues and allow the harvesting of peat, the Irish horticultural sector faces wipe-out. The Ministers in charge here have to step in to save the sector. The situation is now beyond serious,” said Tim Cullinan