Following Tuesday’s introduction of the Horticultural Peat (Temporary Measures) Bill which could see the extraction of peat again, chair of the IFA mushroom producers committee Gerard O’Reilly has said he would welcome the bill as there is no alternative to peat in Ireland.

“Latvia is our nearest supplier of peat, which some have estimated will be an extra 20% cost to our production and unfortunately we don’t have that 20% to give.

“This peat in Latvia isn’t half as good as the peat we can grow here in Ireland. The texture and quality of it isn’t the same. There is no common sense here at all.”

Not only will this peat cost more, the quality and yield of our mushrooms would suffer

O’Reilly highlighted the importance of the mushroom industry to the Irish economy and said that 80% of Irish-grown mushrooms are exported to the UK worth €120m to the economy. He believes importing peat for growing media will be extremely disruptive to business.

“That market could be completely eroded because of such tight margins, we will not be able to compete with Poland, who are our biggest competitors.

“Not only will this peat cost more, the quality and yield of our mushrooms would suffer.

“If yield is lower, your profits will be too. I believe it will put a lot of people out of business,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly was also concerned for the 2,500 people who work in the mushroom sector.

Readily available peat

O’Reilly said that the peat he uses for “casing soil” to grow his mushrooms comes from only 30 minutes away.

“If we need peat at 7am on a Monday morning we just have to ring the supplier in Strokestown and it will be with us in 30 minutes. That would not be the case with peat from Latvia.

“All the peat we buy must be wet, usually at 82% moisture, I can’t imagine the carbon footprint that would be left behind if we have to import it from Latvia,” he said.

O’Reilly also said that if there was another alternative to peat in Ireland, they would use it “but we don’t, simple as”.