The report, Backing British Blooms by NFU horticulture adviser Amy Gray, calls for development of an "overarching" British cut flower grower association to include all growers and undertake promotional work, "develop demand-based strategies for growth and collect market data to help inform policymakers, retailers and consumers".
Gray said NFU body the British Protected Ornamentals Association (BPOA) could represent protected cut flower growers but it would be up to outdoor cut flower growers themselves to make a case to the NFU if they want the union to fund and organise the group.
"Highly subsidised Dutch imports and logistical prowess of exporters from the Dutch markets have made competing on price unsustainable. But British flower farming is at a turning point. After years of playing second fiddle to the import industry, the competitive landscape is slowly shifting back in the favour of the British grower," said Gray.
"The rising prices at the Dutch auctions coupled with an increase in consumer awareness and demand for seasonal British flowers makes the British market increasingly competitive and desirable."
The value of British cut flowers has stayed roughly the same, rising from around £79m in 1988 to £82m in 2015. Meanwhile, the value of cut flower imports has increased from £122m to £666m over the same time period. But imports have fallen by 3.8 per cent and home growing increased for the first time in more than a decade last year, the report shows. However, it admits that there are no reliable UK figures available.
Defra figures show an increase of 16 per cent in land allocated to outdoor cut flower production in 2015 on the previous year, probably because of more artisan production.
The report points out that supermarkets have 56 per cent of the UK market, a figure Gray said may have risen since Kantar issued it in 2011 because of the rise of discounters such as Aldi and Lidl.
Spikes in sales come at Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, which UK growers have found difficult to serve. But Gray said there is "huge potential when it comes to gifting and potentially developing new peak periods. That's where a grower association could generate sales."
She wants better provenance labelling of cut flowers in retailers and florists, similar to the BPOA's Home Grown scheme. Gray also called for general cut flower grower support such as commitment to fair trading practices by retailers, access to effective plant-protection products, mitigation to soften the impact of the National Living Wage and better training.
Gray believes there are no land-based colleges that have a floriculture module. The sector needs money from Government for research and development as well as new glasshouse technology, she added, and better transport is needed along with more land, while the sector needs to be included in the ornamental horticulture round table.
Statistics British cut flowers market versus level of imports
- The total value of the British cut flowers market has risen from £79m in 1988 to £82m in 2015.
- Cut flower imports have increased from £122m in 1998 to £666m in 2015.
- There were 120 UK chrysanthemum growers in the 1970s but only three in 2013 - and no carnation growers at all.