A delegation from the IFA mushroom committee met with Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett to discuss issues currently affecting Irish mushroom growers.

The main concern raised by the IFA over the course of the meeting was that of the horticultural-grade peat shortage caused by last year’s Supreme Court decision to cease peat harvesting on large bogs.

Also addressed were the issues of increased costs, the straw incorporation scheme and producer organisations.

IFA president Tim Cullinan spoke on the horticultural peat sourcing challenges after the meeting this Tuesday.

“We called on the minister to introduce measures to ensure the resumption of the harvesting of horticultural peat immediately,” stated Cullinan.

“It’s very contradictory and hypocritical of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action to recommend the expansion of the horticulture sector to avail of opportunities for import substitution and farm diversification, while the harvesting of the native raw material is no longer possible as a result of the court decision,” he said.

Labour demand

“There’s a shortage of skilled, semi-skilled and manual labour for the sector. This is having a serious effect on the efficiencies of businesses and subsequent viability of the sector,” commented Cullinan.

The IFA also called for the reopening of the pilot general employment permit scheme, which would alleviate what the association identified as a “labour crisis in the horticultural sector”.

The delegation also called on the minister to introduce measures to financially incentivise the use of spent mushroom compost as a nutrient source.