Ireland begins importing peat after domestic production ceases
Ireland, long known for its generations of sod production, now receives shipments of foreign peat whose national reserves are said to be depleted.
Some 3,600 tonnes of horticultural peat arrived from Latvia on Saturday at the port of Drogheda in County Louth, where it was greeted by a fleet of 200 trucks.
The unusual freight landed amid continuing tensions between industry producers and the government over the shutdown of commercial peat production following a 2019 High Court ruling. government on how the situation might be resolved is expected later this month.
According to Growing Media Ireland (GMI), the industry body, Saturday’s large cargo of peat traveled 3,000 km to reach its destination, compared to an average distance of around 10 km when it came from a Westmeath Bog.
“This is the first time this country has to import horticultural peat with many scheduled shipments from the Baltic States and other EU countries expected over the coming weeks and months to supply the Irish horticultural sector.” , said GMI.
The material is used in the production of food, including mushrooms, red fruits and vegetables. Prices are now expected to rise due to producers’ dependence on imported material and be “inevitably passed on to consumers,” the agency said.
The arrival of peat on ships goes against generations of history and a tradition of localized harvesting that industrialized in the 20th century thanks to Bord na Móna.
However, as documented in a recent government position paper, peatlands are now ranked among the most important ecosystems in the world with a critical capacity to capture carbon and help regulate the climate.
In 2019, a High Court ruling in response to action by the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) group ruled that the legal aspects of regulations governing commercial production were inconsistent with EU guidelines on environmental assessments. environmental impact and the Habitats Directive.
According to GIM, the decision meant that harvesting peat in Irish peatlands over 30 hectares now requires the navigation of a complex multi-stage authorization and planning system, while other EU countries have a single system. The commercial harvest has effectively ended, he said.
In an appearance by the Oireachtas agriculture committee earlier this year, the organization predicted the loss of thousands of related jobs and peat reserves will run out by September.
He says the cost of importing horticultural peat could be up to three times that of its domestic supply, not to mention the environmental concerns associated with its transportation.
“We estimate that at least two shipments the size of what arrived in Ireland this week will be needed each month to meet Ireland’s needs,” said GMI chairman John Neenan.
“This is a crazy scenario we face given that horticultural peat is readily available and can be harvested in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner in this country. “
In 2018, the farm gate value of the Irish horticulture industry was 437 million euros, according to a government estimate.
The industry is now looking for a “fair and viable” licensing system that would allow the phase-out of the horticultural peat harvest by 2030, when it could be replaced by alternative methods.
According to the Heritage Department, which is responsible for the region, a task force was formed earlier this year to examine such alternatives.
A final report is expected by the end of the month.
A spokesperson said that senior officials from a number of ministries, including Energy and Climate, “are working together on a series of integrated actions to help address short- and medium-sized supply challenges. term”.