Urgent Government action is required to protect thousands of jobs in the peat-based Irish horticulture sector, an industry report has claimed.
Tighter controls on the harvesting of peat for horticultural purposes is putting close to 500 jobs at risk in the short-term, peat harvesters claimed, and is threatening the viability of horticultural plant growers and the mushroom industry which provide 6,000 further jobs.
Peat harvesters point out that the planning and licensing regime to operate bogs takes between four and six years to navigate and all peat harvesting on bogs must cease during the application.
Describing the regime as unnecessarily burdensome and disproportionate, the industry representative body, Growing Media Ireland (GMI), says it is putting the country's horticultural plant growers and mushroom industry at risk.
The Irish horticultural industry has a farmgate value of €437m and generates export earnings of €239m.
"Without an indigenous supply of horticultural peat, the majority of Irish horticultural growers would be wiped out by Dutch plant and mushroom imports," GMI claimed.
Just 5pc of Irish peatlands, or around 5,500ha, are used for horticultural peat harvesting.
This peat is used principally as a growing medium by amateur and professional gardeners, professional growers and by the mushroom industry.
Peat harvesting for the horticultural sector had been brought to a standstill as a result of the planning and licensing regime, GMI said, and the body called for the legislation to be amended to streamline the process.
"Greater cohesion and coordination needs to be brought to the entire planning and licensing system and the creation of a fast track 'one-stop-shop' arrangement, would certainly be a step in the right direction," GMI said.
"New legislation is urgently required to allow the industry to operate in a regulated environment, without the need for a prolonged shutdown from which it will not recover.
"Without this urgent legislation, there will be serious loss of jobs."