Growers fear disadvantage from move to end peat use

A Defra consultation outlining plans to phase out the commercial use of peat by 2030 has sparked concerns that UK growers could be left at a commercial disadvantage.

The coalition Government has backed the previous administration's proposals to ban the use of peat in the amateur market by 2020 and has set a new target for commercial growers and producers to follow suit by 2030.

Industry bodies have voiced concerns over the consultation, which stated that the UK had "very limited legal ground" to ban the import of plants grown in peat and questioned what support would be available to help the transition to peat-free.

NFU horticultural adviser Dr Chris Hartfield said: "It would be wholly unacceptable to continue to allow the import of plants potted in peat, or indeed any products grown in peat media, if UK growers were banned from using it.

"It's vital for us to ensure that any policy does not place UK growers in an unfair position compared to their competitors abroad."

He criticised the consultation for failing to address who will foot the bill for phasing out the use of peat in professional horticulture, which is estimated to be worth £385m.

HTA policy manager Gary Scroby said: "We think it's achievable but it's going to be more difficult for commercial growers and there has to be an EU level playing field.

"There needs to be sufficient research and development put into commercial materials - we will need support."

Growing-media supplier William Sinclair's professional manager John Tugman agreed: "The thing that concerns me most is that presumably the proposals mean that growers based in the UK won't be able to grow plants in peat, but what does that mean in terms of competing with imported plants from the continent?

"The 2030 deadline is an achievable target and it will be commercially viable but if it doesn't apply to continental growers that won't be the case. We are involved in the consultation and we will continue to raise this issue."

A Defra representative said the consultation proposed a "voluntary partnership approach" to the phasing out of peat and said it "does not propose Government funding and support for product research".

PROPOSALS

- Phase out peat use in local authorities and Government bodies by 2015 and carry out a subsequent comprehensive review of progress.

- Phase out peat use in the amateur market by 2020.

- Phase out peat use by commercial growers and producers by 2030.


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