Fears are being expressed that thousands of jobs could be lost in the horticultural sector in Ireland due to a shortage of horticultural peat.

Peat is being supplied to some of those in the industry by Bord na Móna, but those involved in the sector have said that the company has informed them that supplies could run out as early as next March.

Bord na Móna last year suspended all peat harvesting on its bogs.

In Kilfinane, Co Limerick, Young Nurseries is a wholesale business supplying a wide range of Irish grown plants and herbs.

But the pending shortage of peat from Bord na Móna is a huge source of concern for the business.

Nuala Young said that the company currently employs up to 24 people. She said that business was established in 1988 but that the shortage of peat "is the biggest threat that has faced our business".

She said that if a solution is not found, jobs will be at risk and customers will be faced with a shortage of plants and increased prices.

Her husband Joe Young said peat is the base material that most businesses in the Irish horticultural sector relies on.

He said the lack of an alternative product is a huge source of stress and concern for all those involved in the sector. He added that they have been informed that Bord na Móna would not be in a position to supply peat to them from next March.

"It’s like asking the dairy sector to continue to produce cheese and butter without any milk", Mr. Young added.

Other businesses in the sector have also expressed concern for jobs over the coming months if no peat alternative is available.

Larry Doran, of Doran Nurseries in Timahoe, Co Kildare said "thousands of jobs are at risk due to the shortage of peat. The Irish horticultural community has been thrown into sudden crisis due to Bord na Móna not being able to supply peat for the growing season".

A spokesperson for Bord na Móna said that as all peat harvesting on its bogs has been suspended, it had signalled to horticultural sector stakeholders that it would continue to supply peat into 2021 but would likely then expend available supplies.

Horticultural representatives have called on State agencies and the Government to identify a suitable alternative for the industry as a matter of urgency.