STATE-OWNED turf company Bord na Mona has revealed the extent of last year's catastrophic peat harvest, which saw yields slashed by nearly two-thirds.
Newly released accounts show the wettest summer in 75 years cost the company €21.1m, forcing it to cut jobs and rein in spending. About 100 seasonal employees lost their jobs while 90 full-timers had their hours cut.
The "catastrophic" harvest also damaged the quality of peat supplies, which incurred a fine from the ESB.
The company only managed to meet consumer demand by relying on its reserves. It typically has two years worth of peat in reserve, but these are now heavily eroded.
"We had just enough last year to meet demand," said chief executive Gabriel D'Arcy, discussing the results yesterday.
The semi-state's fortunes have now turned around, with the unusually good summer of 2013.
"This year we will have completely replenished our stocks," said Mr D'Arcy.
This year's harvest has already exceeded its target. Turnover in the year ending March was up 11pc to €426m, despite the poor peat harvest. Sales were boosted by healthy fuel sales because of the prolonged winter.
"I am pleased to report strong results, notwithstanding the challenging business environment and poor peat harvest in 2012," said Mr D'Arcy.
"The results owe a great deal to the resilience and diverse strengths of the group. They also reflect the fact that we took prompt action to reduce our costs, even as the impact of the poor harvest was becoming clear.
"The entire workforce in Bord na Mona deserves enormous credit for the way they responded and for their contribution to helping offset the effects of the crisis."
Profit before tax was €12.5m compared to a €12.7m loss in the previous financial year. It paid a dividend worth €2.4m to the State and a similar dividend – 30pc of its €9.2m profit after tax – is expected this year.
A major announcement on the location of new windfarms is expected next month as the company, 95pc owned by the State, increases its use of renewable energy.
It is aiming to replace 30pc of the peat used at its main power station in Edenderry with bio-mass sources over the coming years.
This fuel will come from more environmentally friendly sources. Mr D'Arcy (left) said yesterday that 22pc of this has already been achieved, from a standing start three years ago.
The semi-state is also ready to apply for planning permission on a new 1,200-acre reservoir near Lough Derg in Co Tipperary, as well as preparing for a possible merger with state forestry body Coillte.
The merger will be decided upon by the end of the year.