Paul Short, the president of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA), weighs in on the peat industry’s 2012 harvesting plans, the availability of retail peat next spring and other peat-related issues surrounding this year’s peat shortage.
GG: CSPMA members represent nearly all of North America’s peat production: How are your members advising growers to react in terms of buying and using peat moss
PS: The [peat] industry is encouraging each grower to work directly with the peat producer to identify solutions on a case by case and company by company basis.
GG: What effect is this shortage having on pricing and the availability of straight peat versus mixes?
PS: To date, what is emerging from producers is a deliberate trend to prioritize mix volumes over straight peat supply. The outcome may be a challenge to the availability of straight peat products.
GG: If growers cannot access the amount of peat they need, what other materials are peat producers advising growers use in the interim?
PS: The horticulture industry currently has a whole variety of substrate materials available beyond peat. These include coir, compost, bark, rock wool – which are the most prominent. Some or all of these products are available directly from our producers, who offer a full range of product options to meet the demands of individual clients.
GG: Are there plans to ramp up the peat harvest in 2012 to ensure another shortage does not happen come 2013.
PS: Our peat harvest is conditioned on the weather. The current shortage is directly attributed to the over-abundance of rain, cool weather and the lack of good drying conditions (wind and sun). The industry harvest plans for next year, not withstanding an individual company’s preparedness, will fully depend on natural seasonal weather conditions that, as we all know, are unpredictable.
If conditions are favorable, our companies will harvest at the rate and degree to which the environmental values for proper bog management are maintained, safety of operations is ensured and quality of the peat product is not jeopardized.
Historically, as a prudent business practice, our industry has structured its yearly harvest to build an inventory buffer that can be drawn upon to help in offsetting a poor season. Next year, dependent on the harvest conditions, the industry will once again strive to achieve this buffer inventory as we return to a normal business year.
You may find producers will adjust their harvest pattern accordingly. This year, I know one company, because it understood very clearly there were problems in Eastern Canada, moved some of its staffing to the West.
GG: What effect will this shortage have on the availability and pricing of bagged peat at retail stores for consumers interested in buying?
PS: At this time there have been no indications that there will be a retail store level shortage for next year. Much may depend on the harvest startup next spring. An early start up will benefit both commercial and retail.