Defra’s decision on peat causes widespread alarm in the UK’s ornamental horticulture industry

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) today announced that the country’s peat ban will come into effect four years earlier, at the end of 2026.

James Barnes, Chairman of the UK’s Horticultural Trades Association, 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.”

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.  Barnes, “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 who 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.”

According to the HTA, the 2026 date feels arbitrary and could severely impact British horticulture – a sector which underpins the government’s 25-year environment plan. Barnes, “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 the government on ensuring the move away from peat is achieved in a sustainable way and truly does deliver for the environment and Britain’s environmental horticulture sector. Barnes concludes, “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.”

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