The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) hosted a town hall meeting with more than 100 sector professionals to discuss last week's decision by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) regarding the ban on peat.
The attendees, who represent various segments of the horticultural industry, including garden retailers, growers, manufacturers and suppliers, landscapers, and service providers, voiced their concerns about the need for clarity and certainty about the next steps in terms of timing, exemptions and legislation.
Although horticultural businesses are at different stages of the journey to transition away from peat use, the significant confusion caused by the lack of a formal Defra announcement was a clear theme of the discussion. Without clarity around exemptions, combined with bringing the ban on growers forward from previous UK government plans for 2030 to 2026, business operations are being put at risk.
HTA members are calling for the government to take a holistic approach that considers responsible sourcing of alternatives and water use, among other factors. They also raised concerns about the availability of quality peat-free alternatives in the UK, which could lead to increased imports and put the UK horticultural industry at a disadvantage, undermining the government's 25-year environment plan.
Other chief concerns which were queried included a potential ban on imported plant materials grown in peat in Europe – this would substantially reduce the supply of plants and trees to garden centres in the UK. As a nation, the UK cannot meet internally grown market demands without the support of imports. Additionally, for young plants grown in peat and supplied to over-winter in 2026 – it is unclear if these products will be illegal to sell in the 2027 season.
Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of HTA, welcomed the feedback from members and promised to relay their comments and questions to the government. She emphasised the importance of a workable transition away from peat to ensure the sustainability of the industry and avoid placing further undue economic and trading pressures on businesses. Although the use of peat has already decreased significantly, the HTA members stressed the need to ensure there is a sufficient quantity and quality of sustainable peat-free alternatives available to growers by 2026.
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