The horticulture sector, which is reliant on peat harvesting and production to grow crops, is facing a serious crisis with thousands of jobs at risk, says Carol Nolan TD.
The Laois Offaly TD also said that a lack of decisive action by various government departments has created the crisis, which she claims is of systemic and overwhelming proportions for the sector.
Deputy Nolan was speaking ahead of a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee.
The Committee will hear from representatives of Growing Media Ireland, who are expected to inform TDs that only immediate action over the summer can avert a looming economic, employment and environmental disaster.
The Independent TD for Laois Offaly went on to say that the crisis has been building for 15 months.
“It simply beggars’ belief that despite 15 months of clear unambiguous warnings from horticulture representatives, we are still approaching a situation that involves government moving the sector toward the precipice.”
“The issues all have all been flagged and solutions have been offered. Workable and constructive solutions I might add,” she said.
“This has now placed 17,000 jobs at real and imminent risk in Offaly, Laois, the midlands, the west and beyond,” the Independent TD claimed.
“It is like some ideological parasite has latched on to the sector and it will not let go until the sector as we know it is destroyed. We see the same approach being replicated in forestry.”
“I also find it absolutely bizarre that reports are now being made indicating that officials from the Department of Housing, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Climate Change and Environment have refused an invitation to appear in front of the Committee.”
“This stands in stark contrast to the Parliamentary Question reply I received in January from the Minister for Agriculture which clearly stated that once the inter-agency report on the review of the use of Peat Moss in the Horticultural Industry was published, the Working Group established on foot of that report would commit itself to “address the key issues raised in the report itself.”
“This lack of engagement is hardly what addressing the issues should look like,” she said. “We must protect, create and retain jobs with the horticulture sector, not destroy them, either purposely or for some vague and counterproductive climate agenda.”
“Government must wake up and listen to the sector before there is no viable sector worth talking about,” concluded Deputy Nolan.