Policy change on agenda for peat-reduction targets

Defra is considering a shift in peat policy to meet 90 per cent reduction targets by splitting targets for industrial and domestic use.

Land management team deputy director Neil Hornby was due to host a meeting on the subject at RHS Horticultural Halls on Wednesday (11 November).

HTA business development director and Growing Media Association (GMA) manager Tim Briercliffe was to speak about the issues for the industry in relation to the target. He said availability, cost, quality and consumer demand are barriers to further change.

"Defra is looking to come up with a way of meeting targets next year. There may not just be one target. The area that is the heaviest user is the retail bagged media and that is also the area that is easier to change than commercial production," said Briercliffe.

"We accept the need for change but don't accept an unreasonable timescale. We need to do things over a sensible period that won't damage the industry.

"We want to help people produce crops. If the consumer is not informed of the differences it might put people off grow-your-own and new gardening and reverse the good things that have happened to get people gardening and the environmental benefits that brings."

Briercliffe, HTA director general David Gwyther and GMA chairman Martin Breddy had a pre-meeting get together with Defra minister Huw Irranca-Davies, focusing on peat, before the industry event.

A Defra representative said: "Defra is in the very early stages of considering options for a potential future target post-2010 when the current voluntary target expires. This will include considering what we want to achieve by setting a new target. The splitting of reduction targets is one option that will be considered."

She added: "Defra is working with industry and retailers in the planning of a consumer campaign on peat, part of the Act on CO2 brand, which will be launched early next year to increase consumers' understanding of peat issues and the alternatives that are on offer."

The most recent data, from 2007, has shown that the market for growing media and soil improvers is 54 per cent peat-free. Defra insisted that there is "no evidence" to suggest that targets have a negative impact on gardening.

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