Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Impact of Peat Shortages on the Horticultural Industry: Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

Photo of Martin BrowneMartin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

As Senator Daly pointed out, many of the questions have been asked already. To see a shipment of just under 4,000 tonnes of peat come into the country at the weekend was crazy. As Deputy Carthy said, it is not just about 200 trucks in Ireland because another 200 trucks had to load that product over in Latvia and it also travelled 3,000 miles by sea.

All sectors of Irish horticulture will be affected, including the mushroom industry and small fruit and vegetable growers in north Dublin and throughout rural Ireland. They will be severely affected. It is not only the growers themselves who will be impacted by the increased cost from importing this into the country, as was said. This will work its way down to consumers having to pay extra. We all saw the news about increases in electricity prices and so on. It is the consumer again who will get hit hard by this. We have been talking to John Neenan from Growing Media Ireland. That organisation is saying the cost of importing horticultural peat from Latvia and so on could be up to three times the cost of sourcing the same product in Ireland. The importation of peat has considerable consequences for the environment, with considerable emissions of carbon to transport that 3,000 miles by sea.

Senator Daly mentioned as well, and we need to recognise, that 17,000 jobs are at risk from these kinds of decisions. Some 17,000 families can be affected by this. We have also spoken to Frank Alley, who the Cathaoirleach knows, in my parish of Dundrum. He has told us they have been wasting their time and it is totally unfair on growers like him and others throughout the country. This is the kind of suspicion they have of that working group the Minister of State keeps talking about.

Before he goes, I thank the Minister of State and his officials for coming. It is ludicrous to think that we are in a situation where peat is being imported from Latvia into this country. If one of us said 30 years ago we would start importing peat into the country, we would be locked up. It is the Minister of State's Department that is saying this represents progress in reducing emissions. It is unbelievable. As has been said, a lot of the growers are trying to mix stuff and source stuff in the country, but that is putting extra cost on them, and with the cost of equipment and all that it will just not be feasible for them.

If the Minister of State was working in an industry that was being destroyed in this manner, would he be happy with a Department that seems to have shown no urgency and that has done nothing to help it? This is not a personal attack on the Minister of State but there are so many jobs at risk and he is only coming to the committee for one hour. I know he might have other commitments but it is unbelievable we are only with him for one hour and I hope he will be back because there are loads more questions that I, other members and people in the industry want to ask. Would the Minister of State take comfort in waiting for a working group to meet and for reports to be published while at the same time his livelihood was taking a nosedive and it looked as if he was going out of business? Aside from referring to the report of the working group, will the Minister of State specify what other options his Department and the other three Departments involved in this have been actively looking at to avert the ruination of this sector?


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