Indian coir pith exports are likely to benefit further from the proposed move by England to ban peat moss sales - a primary ingredient in seed-starting and potting mixes - from 2024.
Mahadevan Pavithran, Member, Coir Board, told BusinessLine that England is reportedly contemplating a ban on peat sales to amateur gardens and the move is part of the initiative to restore peat lands. The ban relates to peat in products designed for gardeners that accounts for 70 per cent of the peat sales in the UK, he said.
The move, he said, hearlded a good time for coir pith exports from India, which is considered as a plant growing medium by countries including the US and Europe in horticulture and home gardening.
Coir pith exports had fetched a revenue of ₹2,259 crore, comprising 52 per cent of total coir and product exports in FY22 with a shipment of 6,96,175 tonnes against 6,80,898 tonnes in FY21.
Peat moss has been a primary ingredient used in seed starting and potting mixes as well as a popular amendments to garden soil. It is used to tighten the soil, increasing its moisture-retaining capabilities. But peat is harvested from bogs that contain almost a third of the world’s carbon. Therefore, the continued strip-mining of peat moss is likely to release carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to the effects of climate change, he added.
Pavithran, also the Managing Director of Travancore Cocotuft in Cherthala, said the peat moss ban opens up 1/3rd of all growing media for Indian coir pith growers. The demand for horticulture media in the UK is estimated at 3.8 million m3. Of this, 2.1 million m3 or more than half, is peat based. Professional growers such as landscape building professionals and commercial scale growers use 1/3 of this and the rest 2/3 by house-holds and amateur users.
The gaining popularity for the Do it Yourself (DIY) concept in the West to renovate homes in Covid times also boosted importance of environment-friendly products such as coir pith, coir fibre etc, he added.
S.Mahesh Kumar, Joint Secretary of the Federation of Indian Coir Exporters Association, said that coir pith is a low-value export product costing $430 per tonne. However, the rising freight cost and container shortage has forced exporters to reduce shipments, although exports registered a 20 per cent growth.
Peat moss was ruling the overseas markets as a plant growing medium until coir pith replaced it in 1995, following the restrictions on mining. Various other countries are also expected to follow the UK to ban peat moss considering the environmental issues, which will benefit coir pith in a big way, he added.