William Sinclair boss suggests 200% VAT on peat products

William Sinclair Horticulture managing director Bernard Burns has suggested the introduction of a 200 per cent VAT rate on peat as the best way to phase out widespread use.

Burns, speaking about the Government's plans for a voluntary end to retail peat sales by 2020, said: "You could charge 200 per cent on growing media that contain peat. That doesn't stop people bringing in peat or using it where it is essential, but it does put the price up. If the cost quadrupled, people who say they can't operate without it would say they can."

He added: "It's an economic issue because germination rates are better and faster in peat. To produce a good-quality peat-free is more expensive, and why produce an alternative if you won't be able to sell it?

"All the major manufacturers know that this is not going to happen while a voluntary code is in place. But if a legislative process on peat resulted in vast reduction of use, we could put reduction facilities in place over a 10-year time span. But it will be at least 2040 if we wait.

"It is a fairy tale thinking this is going to happen without intervention. 'Can you legislate?' is the $64,000 question. I believe the Government can, but I don't believe it believes it can.

"I don't think there is anything in the EU stopping it having differential rates of VAT, though they don't want to because it is clumsy."

Burns also announced improved profits before tax of £3.18m in the 12 months to 30 September 2011 (up from £2.06m in the previous year).

The Government's peat task force, set up last year under Dr Alan Knight, has plans for a road map to show how peat use can end by 2020 (2030 for growers).

A Defra representative said the task force will look into Burns' ideas. For its programme to June 2012, see www.defra.gov.uk/peat-taskforce/work/programme.

Bord na Mona Vital Earth expansion

Irish peat and utilities company Bord na Mona UK has taken over the sales and marketing resource of UK-based peat-free company Vital Earth.

Bord na Mona UK will now sell a range of growing media and bark products across the Vital Earth and Growise brands.

A range of fuel and ignition products will be available under the FireMagic brand.

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