Coal smuggling is having a “major impact” on businesses in the Republic of Ireland, Solid Fuel Merchants Ireland have claimed.

Coal can be bought at a significantly cheaper price in Northern Ireland and the organisation estimates €16 million is lost annually because it is being smuggled south and re-sold.

The body wants the authorities to take co-ordinated action to tackle the problem.

“We are looking for the Government to work in tandem with local authorities, the Revenu and An Garda Síochána and clamp down on the smuggling and the sale of illegal fuels,” SFMI Chairperson Colin Ahern said.

“Any sellers that do not have a license when they’re stopped will have their vehicle and stock impounded and issued [with] heavy fines.

“This is the kind of empowerment we’re looking for.”

VAT on coal is levied is 13.5% in the Republic of Ireland; however, in the United Kingdom it is 5% when sold for domestic consumption and Mr Ahern say this has distorted the market.

“We have a product at the moment, coming into the market that has no carbon tax, very little VAT and high sulphur levels,” he said.

“Illegal fuels could be as much as €5 to €6 per 40kg bag cheap. This is having a major impact on legitimate producers.”

Coal is one of the most polluting of energy sources and in its 2021 Action Plan, the Irish Government committed to phasing out its use over time.

Ministers hope to generate 80% of Ireland’s energy from renewable sources by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

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