Open day debates challenges of Government peat-reduction plan

Growers attending a technical open day at growing media manufacturer Melcourt's Gloucestershire headquarters on Wednesday were due to debate challenges arising from the Government's 2030 peat phase-out target.

Defra soils policy specialist Judith Stuart was quizzed on the latest Government targets, with concerns arising over whether the ban would be applicable in the devolved nations and how it would work in a European context.

In the run-up to the meeting, Deepdale Trees production director Andrew Fenton challenged the proposals: "Customers don't care about peat. It's all down to price."

Hortifeeds technical area sales manager Bill Riley said: "We supply many companies in Europe and the question of peat alternatives is not asked. I'm concerned about the unfair market place."

Stuart said the Government was proposing a voluntary approach and although the targets were for England only, she expected the devolved administrations to follow suit and adopt the same policies.

On the European context, she said: "This is a partnership. There will be equal pressure across everyone so even if growers abroad don't want to use peat replacements our retailers will be required to."

She added: "There has been important progress made in reducing the horticultural use of peat and the proportion of the market that's made up of peat, but we still have quite a way to go."

PROPOSALS

- Establish an industry-led task force.

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

- Phase out amateur use of peat by 2020.

- Phase out professional use of peat by 2030.


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