Horticulture protesters warn of industry’s sharp decline

Ban on large-scale harvesting of peat will ruin sector and is ‘beyond serious’, says IFA

Horticulture protest: a display near the Convention Centre in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Tom Honan/ The Irish Times

Horticulture protest: a display near the Convention Centre in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Tom Honan/ The Irish Times

 

Horticultural workers are using garden products to build a display outside the Convention Centre Dublin on Tuesday to protest what they say is the Government’s inaction over the decline of their industry.

The display of products is aimed at highlighting the €437million value of the industry to the economy each year, which garden centre operators and producers say is facing ruin since the introduction of a ban on large-scale peat harvesting.

Politicians arriving for a Dáil session at the Convention Centre on Tuesday afternoon will be told stockpiles of products have dried up and without legislative change there will be no Irish peat available for the industry come September.

Larry Doran spokesman for the Kildare Growers said politicians who allowed a ban have “ignored and let down” some 17,000 people employed in mainly rural areas.

Mr Doran said operators are at “the end of their tether since the ban on harvesting of peat” on bogs of over 30 hectares in size.

Mr Mr Doran said if no solution is found immediately, “businesses will be forced to close and there will be a loss of native biodiversity and biosecurity”.

He said: “There is a high likelihood that there will be no Irish plants for sale next year, and garden centres will be forced to import all products.”

Mr Doran said the industry is the section of horticulture that grows trees such as oak and pine that are planted to sequester carbon; the industry that grows hedging to provide spring food for songbirds; and the industry that grows flowering plants to sustain pollinating honeybees and butterflies.

“ This is one of the key industries that is providing us with the tools to help reverse the degradation of our environment” he said.

“People who have little knowledge of our industry often suggest alternatives such as coir, a product shipped from the tropics and grown on land stripped of tropical forest. Surely the Green Party understands how environmentally damaging this is,” he said.

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan will be among those protesting outside the Convention Centre.

Mr Cullinan said “the Irish horticultural sector faces wipe out. The Ministers in charge here have to step in save the sector. The situation is now beyond serious.”

Growers will build a 50sq m display with their produce outside where the Dáil is sitting. It will depict the message “No Peat, No Produce” in a bid to tell the Government that the horticultural sector cannot supply Irish produce for consumers without peat.

Following a ruling of the High Court in September 2019, harvesting of peat from bogs greater than 30 hectares now requires all harvesters to go through a licensing and planning regime. Mr Cullinan said horticultural peat harvesting on Irish bogs has all but ceased and Irish peat supplies will be exhausted before September.