The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has said that the current challenges confronting the horticulture sector are down to the fact that “pretty much all commercial peat extraction” is operating without licence or authorisation.
The Minister went on to say that many of the problems also relate to the fact that the “industry has not been regularised” and that consequently it is finding it very challenging to become regularised.
The remarks were made in response to questions raised in the Dáil by the Independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Carol Nolan:
“As I put it to the Minister; when it comes to peat harvesting, there is still no clarity, no certainty and no adequate sources,” said Deputy Nolan.
“There is no clarity about where the authority to change the planning law resides. Is it the EU or is it government? There is no certainty about whether the horticulture sector can survive and there is most definitely not enough adequate sources of peat. Or rather there is, but people are banned from accessing them.”
“What has this Government got against the horticultural sector? Why is it being made to bear the burden of unworkable, environmentally incoherent policies, the evidence for which is that we continue to import thousands of tonnes of peat despite a bountiful indigenous supply being available on our own doorstep.”
“I take real issue with the Minister’s suggestion or implication that somehow the current crisis in horticulture is down to an inability of the sector to adequately respond to recent legal changes around regularisation.”
“I believe this will infuriate growers within the sector as it does not take even the remotest account of the massive efforts at adaptation that have been made by horticulture operators”
“The problem is at government level not at ground level,” concluded Deputy Nolan.