GALLAGHER MOVES IN SEANAD TO AVERT CRISIS FACING MUSHROOM SECTOR

2 July 2021 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher has called for action to avert a potential crisis in mushroom production which he said could have adverse consequences for employment in the sector in Co Monaghan. Senator Gallagher told Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett on Monday that proposed restrictions on agricultural peat harvesting had raised deep concerns in the horticultural sector and had particular implications for the major mushroom production industry in Co Monaghan.

“The mushroom industry is the largest horticultural sector in Ireland with a farm gate value of €119 million, of which approximately 85% is exported to the UK. It employs over 3,500 people. County Monaghan is well known for its indigenous industry,” Senator Gallagher stated during the Seanad debate. “One of the most successful of these local industries is the mushroom sector, which employs hundreds and hundreds of people and supports local farms and businesses and by extension, many local communities. The sector is crucial to the economy, particularly in the north of Co Monaghan. “However, the industry now faces a significant, and in my opinion unneeded, challenge at a time when it faces the consequences of both Brexit and Covid-19. A ban on peat harvesting will have a very serious impact on the mushroom industry in Co Monaghan.

“The industry is heavily reliant on high-grade peat and there is currently no viable alternative to horticultural peat. If peat is not available here in Ireland, the mushroom industry will be forced to import it from the Baltic states or from northern Europe at a huge cost both in financial terms to the industry and in the form of the higher carbon footprint of transporting that peat into the country.

“What sense is there in damaging a successful local industry for little or no environmental gain? It seems to be a case of cutting off our environmental noses to spite our face. To put things in perspective, there are 1.5 million ha of peatland in Ireland of which only 5,500 ha, approximately, are used for horticultural peat. That is less than 0.35%. “Mushroom-casing peat represents a small fraction of this and probably as little as 10 ha to 15 ha annually. The Minister must introduce measures to ensure the resumption of the harvesting of horticultural peat for the mushroom industry to avoid a shortage this year, as well as a measures to financially incentivise….

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