Mushroom sector faces crisis due to government ‘indifference’ on Horticultural Peat –
Matt Carthy TD
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy, TD has called on the Minister for Agriculture to immediately intervene to address the imminent crisis facing the Mushroom industry and the wider Horticulture sector.
Deputy Carthy was speaking a full month since cabinet was due to consider a government commissioned report on the future use of horticultural within the sector. That report has yet to be published despite being submitted to Minister of State Noonan in October.
Deputy Carthy has said that it is imperative that the Minister for Agriculture takes a leadership role to ensure that the report is published and that government outline its proposals to address the peat shortage.
“For over two-years now Ministers, across a number of departments, have essentially dodged responsibility for what has become a very real and existential crisis in our mushroom sector.
“In November, the Leader of the Seanad, Senator Regina Doherty stated that the report from the Chairperson of the government’s own Working Group on the Future of Horticulture Peat was be brought to cabinet on December 7th –a full-month later and we have seen zero progress on the publication of this report.
“On the same day, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Senators made a farce of parliamentary procedure by bringing forward their own Private Members Bill which bizarrely failed to progress due to a lack of support from their own government.
“The inaction and indifference by government means that the mushroom sector, and those who work in it and the communities that depend on it, is facing an existential threat due to the shortage of Horticultural Peat. These are farmers and communities who needed a Minister, any Minister, to stand up for them.
“Minister of State Malcolm Noonan appears unconcerned while Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, up to this point has seemed to be entirely disinterested in an issue that will close farms.
“The reason why Mushroom farms are so prevalent in Counties like Monaghan is because holdings are small. They were unprofitable. Farmers did as they were asked – they diversified – and they turned small, unprofitable holdings into an economic driver of an entire region.
“Their sector needs peat.
“The government set up a working group, it commissioned a report, it granted an extension to that report, it has now considered that report – it must publish that report immediately.
“Apparently, that report found that emergency legislation was needed prior to the end of 2021.
“At present, there is no sustainable alternative to peat. I expect it will come and government and the sector must intensify efforts to find it. But the government cannot wish alternatives into existence.
“In the meantime, we need a realistic approach from government that will support the sector while ensuring the highest global standards in environmental protection. Otherwise, we will see the further importation of huge shipments of peat from the far side of Europe. There is no justification for that situation just as there was no justification for the previous exportation of peat from Ireland by a state-owned company Bord na Mona.
“As a matter of priority, the Minister for Agriculture needs to show leadership on this issue. He must force his government colleagues to take action, publish the report of the working group and bring forward proposals to avert this crisis”.