North America’s leading peat suppliers are working with customers to make sure they get their orders in for the coming spring season. We caught up with Chuck Buffington, who directs sales for the Flowers Pro division of Syngenta and was vice president of sales, marketing and technical services at Fafard, Syngenta’s growing media company.
Fafard’s bogs are located in New Brunswick and Manitoba. The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association is projecting a shortage of 70 to 85 percent in the Northeastern Canadian provinces, where two thirds of the peat is produced. While production in the Western provinces helps offset the shortfall, it won’t be enough and the industry is looking about half the peat supply it normally has. Customers who buy prepared mixes will take priority over those who buy raw peat to mix their own.
“We have enough peat available to fulfill all our current mix customers’ needs,” Buffington says. “It will be tight but we anticipate we will meet those orders. We are not taking on any new peat moss customers and have stopped taking orders for peat moss. We will continue to accept orders for mixes.”
Will alternative components be blended into mixes to help stretch the peat supply? Although Fafard will offer growers alternatives, the mixes will stay true to the formulas growers expect.
“We’re not going to play with formulas to save peat. We want growers to get the same formula they are used to receiving,” Buffington says. “We do have alternative mixes with less peat and good performance on the growing end. We’ll offer alternatives to growers to help reduce peat requirements they might have. Any time you change growing media components, you get different results. We don’t take it lightly. Before we offer a new formulation, it’s tested.”
What about mixes for consumers sold at garden centers? “We will have an adequate supply of retail mixes under the Fafard brand and plan to have availability for past customers,” Buffington says. “The retail recipes will be the same as before. It’s important the customer receives a quality, consistent product every year.”
Growers and garden retailers should brace themselves for significant price increases for peat-based mixes. “We’re looking at pricing now,” he says. “It will depend on the product. The more peat that’s used, the greater the increase will be. If you do the math, if our harvest is significantly less, we’ve got a lot of fixed costs to spread over a smaller volume, which increases our costs of production significantly.”
Growers and retailers are urged to get their orders in for the spring season. “Production is significantly below any other harvest in history,” Buffington says. “Those who wait until later may not be able to react quickly or get the right mix in the right package. Those who do proper planning and work with their suppliers will alleviate potential headaches down the road.”