Former producer forecasts significant peat shortages after consecutive wet summers

Peat is likely to be hit by "severe shortages" this year according to a former producer.

Doncaster-based Viking Horticulture owner John Carr said peat producers managed just 20% of the amount they wanted to harvest in 2009.

He has now gone out of peat production and while he is still harvesting is not bagging. "The industry produced about one-fifth of what people require for 2010," said Carr. "There will be severe shortages."

He added: "I don't think it will be much of problem for garden centres because they are using more and more green waste-growing media. The problem will be more for growers. It will be first come, first served.

"Those who book early will get it. There's always a lot of bravado from the big guys, but facts are facts. We've had three wet summers and this last one was the wettest. We last harvested the week after Wimbledon. Some got out and harvested in September, but that never dries properly."

Carr said some of the shortfall will be made up from overseas supplies. "So with imports and everything we will have 50-60% of normal supply, I reckon."

William Sinclair Horticulture managing director Danny Adamson said: "The industry harvested one-third less peat than it hoped for in 2009 because of wet weather.

"The exchange rate hit a few overseas suppliers too, but we won't run out. We have what we need and no more. No-one has any reserves. We harvested all we needed but we didn't harvest what we needed to build our reserves last year. Irish prices went through the roof because they were trying to preserve stock. Some producers are in Latvia looking for more."

Adamson added: "Viking in Doncaster quit bagging peat last autumn, sold its equipment off and retained its bog.

"Smaller pure peat suppliers are struggling because they are going to run out in the season. They're having to whack prices up to keep hold of stock."

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