Industry representatives told the Minister that they would continue to support progressing peat reduction but a number of key challenges needed to be overcome. Fundamentally the availability of quality alternatives needed to be addressed especially in light of the demand for the same products from a growing alternative energy industry. It was made very clear to the Minister that the UK industry could not be singled out in a competitive European market. Tackling UK extraction alone would simply export the industry abroad and do nothing to reduce the use of peat in the UK. The specific issues facing commercial growers were also highlighted, where quality and consistency magnify in importance and where UK growers could very quickly be disadvantaged in a tough European market.
Following the meeting HTA Director of Business Development, Tim Briercliffe, who represented HTA and GMA at the meeting said “It was encouraging to hear the new Minister wanting to find out about the real industry challenges presented by peat reduction. He was pleased by our constructive approach and has agreed to give serious consideration to the industry concerns. It was heartening that he does not want to initiate measures that will disadvantage the UK industry and unless this subject is addressed at a EU level then that will be the case. The Growing Media Initiative remains an essential vehicle for the industry to make progress in peat reduction and I would continue to encourage retailers to get involved”.
Representing the HDC at the meeting Chairman Neil Bragg said, “The industry has done a huge amount in getting to where it has in peat reduction and it was pleasing to hear the Minister acknowledge this. However, the meeting provided a useful opportunity to detail to the Minster some of the real financial and technical challenges that growers face in achieving peat reduction.”
Defra will be consulting on their policy plans before the end of 2010 and HTA will remain in close contact with the Minister and officials during this important period.