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No more rain for peat's sake


A soggy spring and summer have led to a devastating harvest.
A soggy spring and summer have led to a devastating harvest.

Jill Colton, staff writer

September 9, 2011 — This year's soggy spring and summer is having a devastating impact on peat moss harvesters. Some producers believe this is the worst harvesting season they've ever seen.

Only about 20 per cent of the peat moss has been gathered this year.
Only about 20 per cent of the peat moss has been gathered this year.

Peat moss harvesters rely on hot, dry weather in the summer months for cultivation.

To ensure a quality product, they have to 'fluff' the top layer of their wetland bogs.

“To get peat moss that we see in stores we basically have to dry the top layer naturally with sun and air,” explains Jody Williston, Theriault & Hachey Peat Moss. “If it rains we can't get it to the proper moisture which is 45 to 55 per cent,” he says matter of factly.

In September producers usually have about 90 to 95 per cent of their peat yielded. But this year is a different story. “We have about 20 per cent of the peat moss harvested -- you're talking about quite a short fall.”

It comes down to the fact it's been so wet -- there hasn't been enough back to back dry days to properly harvest.

New Brunswick is one of the major centres for peat production in the country. “It's a really bad situation for the peat industry,“ says Wolf Mecking, general manager of Heveco Ltd.

Although his company has been spared layoffs the same can't be said for others.

“The biggest thing is it's affecting our workforce. We had to lay off a lot of people and cut back salaries as well -- it hits home let's put it that way,” says a defeated Williston.

Peat moss production is a serious business for New Brunswick.
Peat moss production is a serious business for New Brunswick.

Those in the peat moss industry are extremely concerned. It's a serious situation for the province because it's one of the pillars of the Acadian Peninsula's economy. Peatlands cover about two per cent of New Brunswick's land surface area, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Many companies operate year-round, with many full-time employees. The summer months are particularly busy as the peat moss is harvested during this time.

“Its depressing everyday we have to tell customers we don't have enough product to satisfy their needs,” says Williston.

There may be some reprieve for the industry, because the harvest typically extends to the end of September. But ultimately, the season can only be salvaged to a certain extent.

With the way things are, many companies have had no choice but to raise prices to try and compensate for the losses.

Even worse, these effects may spill over into next year with consumers having to pay the price. Purchasers may have to dole out more for flowers and vegetables that are grown in the same peat moss fields.

With files from Shelley Steeves and Telegraph-Journal

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