GG: What is the state of the peat moss industry right now?
Short: I would characterize it as stable. There have been some acquisitions — most notably SunGro’s acquisition of Fafard soilless potting mixes — so there has been a bit of consolidation. I think realistically the industry is a reflection of the health of the horticulture industry over all. I say that in the sense that the same forces that are at play with the economies in Canada and the U.S. also have an effect on the purchasing decisions of consumers.
GG: Has the debate about whether peat moss is sustainable continued?
Short: The market continues to be interested in the responsible management of the peat lands, not only in Canada but throughout the U.S. and worldwide to some extent. Our industry is engaged with federal-provincial and, where appropriate, state industries to promote and strengthen the management of these resources. Questions still continue to be raised by our purchasers for a greater assurance that we are managing not only our businesses but the resource itself. This is happening less and less because more than 75 percent of our producers are now within the VeriFlora Certification Standard for Responsible Peatland Management certification scheme. This gives greater assurances from an outside agency that we are complying with vigorous, third-party standards. It’s not just our word. Now there is a third party out there looking at our operations and validating them based on what we feel are some very stringent criteria.
GG: Do you think the third-party validation is helping to promote the message of peat moss as a sustainable material? Are growers catching on to this message?
Short: It’s not just the third party; we are taking some action steps ourselves. The information on our environmental life cycle and our social economic lifecycle assessment to consumers has increased the information about our industry and our products. The distribution of the lifecycle assessment information has also promoted an increased curiosity in the market of the values of other growing media materials related to their environmental, social and economic impact.
My view is that this is a good thing for the horticultural industry in general. A greater awareness of all the attributes of growing media also permits better decisions. The promotion and awareness of our scientific research is becoming a foundation for improved understanding of the challenges and success that responsible management of peatlands can achieve. We are planning to continue to maintain our programs to further investigate peatland hydrology, biodiversity and the greenhouse gas effects of our restoration efforts across the country. So we are getting the message out and I think people are listening and asking questions not only of us but of other media companies.
GG: Last year the peat harvest was down due to the weather. What are your expectations for the harvest this year?
Short: Our harvest has significantly improved from last year’s season in Quebec and the Maritimes and Central Canada. We have achieved slightly higher than expected volumes. That’s because of an earlier start to the season and favorable weather conditions throughout the harvest. Western Canada’s harvest is impacted by a slower start and not as good weather conditions, so we are slightly below what our expectations were there. The outcome is a considerable marked improvement in the harvest volume over last year, and it is anticipated that further adjustments may be made depending on the size of the harvest in the fall season. This is especially true in western Canada. I would also like to note that the European harvest season has been challenged by weather, and it is anticipated that supply will be significantly reduced in these countries.
GG: Do you think the quality and prices will remain the same as last year?
Short: I think the question of price is one of market demand and supply of the product. That will determine it. I really can’t say there.
Our producers have maintained a commitment to ensure our clients
receive product that meets their demands for quality specific to their needs, so this applies to both bulk peat and mixes. Our members work directly with the clients to ensure the product fits their needs. Our quality has been maintained by client relationship activities and our commitment to quality.
GG: The peat shortage was highly publicized, but many growers
reported that they were able to secure the necessary materials. How widespread was the actual shortage?
Short: The shortage last year was extensive throughout the industry; however, individual companies worked directly with their clients to provide to their needs. In some cases, purchases were made overseas to secure individual supply while maintaining our quality. Within the horticultural industry, there were some cases where alternative materials were purchased and our members are working now to regain these sales.