A European growing-media producer has criticised UK peat policy, claiming that the horticulture industry would breakdown within a year if peat was phased out.
German manufacturer Klasmann-Deilmann, the world's biggest supplier of peat, has produced a booklet to send to its customers, aiming to highlight how peat is essential in commercial horticulture.
Head of marketing communications Dirk Rose said: "We think peat use is important today and in the future because there are no alternatives. If the UK says ban peat, there wouldn't be enough alternatives in volume.
"We need nine-million cubic metres a year for the commercial and retail markets. There is less than onemillion cubic metres of the alternatives available. It can't work. We need peat both for quality and volume reasons."
He added that there would be serious consequences if peat was no longer used in the UK. "Our sales would fall immediately. Prices would rise for flowers, herbs, lettuce - anything that is grown with peat-based media."
The booklet, Peat-based Growing Media - Reliable, Available, Sustainable, is intended to set out the pros and cons of peat and its alternatives and demonstrate that peat extraction is environmentally sustainable.
Horticultural Development Company chairman Neil Bragg also expressed doubts about the availability of peat alternatives, saying that it was not clear whether any material would be obtainable in sufficient quantities.
"When peat has been phased out for certain uses, it hasn't been done by Government diktat - it has been driven by innovation," he said. "The Government has to be careful."
He added that Defra's peat task force was starting to improve things, but it was working to a tight timescale. "We're not going to be able to give a meaningful report by June. It will be more of a 'this is where we need to get to' kind of thing."
"We recognise the objective of phasing out peat in the retail market by 2020 and we are working towards that. We already have non-peat products in our range. We will comply with any regulations and are part of the task force. There are technical challenges, particularly finding a material that is available in the right quantities. That is the greatest focus for the task force."
John Keogh, horticulture director, Bord na Mona.