Biomass boosts poinsettia profit

'You must have a biomass boiler to have any success,' says Pentland Plants owner David Spray.

Poinsettias: three million expected to be grown in the UK this year with prices similar to those last year
Poinsettias: three million expected to be grown in the UK this year with prices similar to those last year

Poinsettias are now in garden centres, with growers saying that the increased use of biomass boilers has brought greater profitability to growing the crop. Some three million will be grown in the UK this year, with prices similar to 2013.

"You have got to have a biomass boiler to have any success," said Pentland Plants owner David Spray. "With more and more biomass being used, fewer poinsettia will come from Holland."

Pentland has a new 999kW boiler to add to its existing 2MW boiler, installed by Pentland Biomass in 2006. The heat production also generates Renewable Heat Initiative funding.

"There's no losses now on poinsettia like there used to be with oil and gas heating," said Spray. "There will be more UK poinsettias grown in the next few years."

He is increasing numbers of larger and unusual coloured poinsettias to garden centres because supermarkets concentrate on standard sizes in red.

"Biomass has affected the number of people growing poinsettia," said British Protected Ornamentals Association acting chairman Simon Davenport. "Roundstone has got back into it in a serious way and smaller growers with smaller biomass boilers are producing too. Madestein dropped out so larger contracts are available for others." Roundstone is growing about 200,000 at Batchmere after not producing in 2013.

Earley Ornamentals managing director Simon Earley said introducing biomass is yet to bring a benefit because the weather has been so mild. But Earley is growing 25,000 poinsettias this year because of the new system. Growing more will mean getting a supermarket contract, which brings more risk, he added.

Boiler conversion - Sufficiency improved

KJ Curson Growers, which produces poinsettias for Co-operative Food, has converted its boilers from oil-powered to straw-powered, using a biomass boiler, "which means we're almost totally self-sufficient", accoridng to owner Kevin Curson.

Based in Norfolk, KJ Curson grows 200,000 a year on its 16ha nursery as well as vegetable plants and bedding and features in the "meet the producer" slot in The Co-operative Food Christmas magazine.

Kevin Curson's children Jessie and Joe also work at the business, as accountant and in the farm shop respectively.


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