Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Departmental Funding

Photo of Alan DillonAlan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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143. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an update will be provided on the research funding announced by his Department in December 2021 for research into peat alternatives; if consideration is being given to harvesting peat domestically for horticultural purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17032/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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I was pleased to be able to announce the award of over €1.4 million from my Department, along with €238,000 from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Northern Ireland, to the project ‘Beyond Peat’ in December 2021.

This project aims to utilise organic bio-resources and novel technologies to develop specifically designed and sustainable peat replacements for professional horticultural crop production.

The project is still in its very early stages, getting protocols established, recruiting postgraduate students and setting up stakeholder groups which will have broad-based representation, including growers and manufacturers. The project also incorporates strong representation internationally from the UK and the Netherlands.

While this is a five year project, I believe the close collaboration between the researchers involved and the industry stakeholders will ensure the timely dissemination of relevant research findings throughout the life of the project.

With regard to the harvesting of peat domestically for horticultural purposes, my Department has no role in the regulation of peat extraction. There is no ban on peat extraction and there is a regulatory framework in place that provides a legal route for peat extraction to take place. It is the responsibility of peat extractors to ensure that they engage with the regulatory system and meet their obligations under EU law.

In January of this year I announced a working paper that sets out a series of actions to support the horticultural growers who are dependent on peat as a growing medium. One of the key actions identified a need for expert planning assistance for peat extractors to enable extractors to comply with the regulatory for peat extraction and all relevant EU environmental laws and obligations.

As a consequence my Department has recruited experts to prepare focused regulatory guidance on planning to assist those wishing to extract peat in the medium term for horticulture growers. This work is currently under way.

This expert guidance document, when published, will provide a valuable resource to those seeking legal compliance for the abstraction of horticultural peat on sub-30 hectare bogs for supply to the domestic horticulture industry.


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