Defra has announced its intention to have a complete ban on the use of peat in commercial horticulture by 2030, with a period of exemptions being required by professional growers between 2026 and 2030. NFU, as well as HTA, give their reaction:
NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Martin Emmett:
The long-awaited news follows previous announcements that a ban on retail peat (bagged growing media) will become effective in 2024.
NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Martin Emmett said: “The industry has been making good progress towards removing peat from the supply chain, but we are aware many of our members will simply not be in a position to be peat free by 2026.
“It is vital that all appropriate exemptions are available to growers and do not restrict production where alternatives to peat are not available or commercially viable.
“It is also critical that any measures required of UK growers are legislated for imports as well so that we can retain a level playing field.”
Research and development needed
Martin Emmett went on to explain, “Rather than a ban, we have maintained that a more effective solution is for government to support growers to find sustainable alternatives through funding and research and development.”
The NFU will continue to work with Defra and within the industry Growing Media Taskforce to represent the best interests of UK growers.
James Barnes, Chairman, HTA, commented: “UK growers are absolutely behind the sustainable transition from peat-use. A decision from Defra on the ban dates has been long-awaited. The Government’s original ambition was for England to be peat free by 2030. Although challenging, this date was accepted as creating the time to have a workable transition away from peat.”
“This is why the announcement that the ban will come into effect four years earlier, at the end of 2026, even with phased exemptions, has caused widespread concern and alarm amongst professional users and growers. There are already plants, trees, and crops in the ground now intended for sale after that date. More than halving the trial seasons available to achieve a successful transition is hugely disappointing and will be a blow to many businesses that are already facing economic and trading pressures. Until legislation is on the statute books and guidance ready, we are without 100% certainty and clarity on the detail of how the ban, phased approach, technical exemptions, and handling imports will work in practice. This is totally unacceptable.”
“The 2026 date feels arbitrary and could severely impact British horticulture – a sector which underpins the Government’s 25-year environment plan. The use of peat has already declined significantly, but there are big challenges in ensuring there is the quantity and quality of sustainable peat-free alternatives for growers to access by 2026.”
“The HTA has been constant and constructive in its engagement with Government on ensuring the move away from peat is achieved in a way that is sustainable and truly does deliver for the environment as well as Britain’s environmental horticulture sector. It is vital we see government action in creating a professional grower forum to engage on the multitude of issues arising, including the timing and exemptions.”