Consolidation changes growing of young plants

Consolidation in the liner industry is leading to growers guaranteeing their supply of young plants by producing their own. A potential Seiont Nurseries sale - thought to be to Lovania - was a talking point at the recent Four Oaks Trade Show (8-9 September).

Eagle Plants: was purchased by Newey Group in June - image: HW
Eagle Plants: was purchased by Newey Group in June - image: HW

Several other young-plant producers have recently been bought or closed. Lancashire-based Northern Liners was shut this summer and the nursery is set to be sold.

Kernock Park Plants business development manager and Association of Liner Producers (ALP) chairman Mark Taylor said: "There's been huge changes in the market this year, first with Dummen Orange, Young Plants (Newey Group) hoovering up Eagle Plants, then Delamore and Botany Bay, and now Seiont." Newey Group also bought ALP member New Place Nurseries in 2013.

Taylor said the latest consolidation is "better for us than they could have been" and there "is always going to be some resistance to buying from larger conglomerates because you don't get the personal touch. It could be good for us because we're one of the last ones standing who are independent."

However, he added: "In some instances people don't know who owns who anyway." The ALP now has one meeting a year rather than two because the "fragmented" industry consolidates and skills shortages and succession issues mean more growers amalgamate, said Taylor. While half of mother stock is produced at Kernock, in some instances genetic material is available to others, which "means you're just competing on price".

Wyevale Nurseries sales and marketing director Adam Dunnett said: "We are trying to manage our own plant supply chain. We have our own propagation unit - 12 months ago we asked whether we should we buy plugs but decided we needed to have control of supply because of consolidation. When a nursery has the whole supply chain it will focus on its own product, which might not suit."

Eagle Plants' Jason Eagle, who sold to Young Plants this summer, added: "We're starting to see the rewards of additional resources we bought into. We're aiming for 25 per cent uplift in 2016 and to be recognised as the number one perennial young-plant company."

Simon Earley of Earley Ornamentals said: "We're going to end up as the only independent young-plant supplier in England." Pentland Plants is an independent producer in Scotland, while Kernock Park Plants is another English producer.

There is a trend towards growers wanting to buy from the UK and being a UK independent producer "is key with European competition", he said, while a tailored-to-customer offer with flexibility is "going the other way" to the Dutch model.

Fairweather's sales manager Sharon Lowndes said there are fewer independent ALP members prominent with Northern Liners going and West End Nurseries having moved. Current ALP members are Fairweather's, Kernock Park Plants, New Place Nurseries, Seiont Nurseries, West End Nurseries and Wyeplants.

Market trend: Consolidation seen in liner industry this year

April Netherlands-based breeder Dümmen Orange revealed a new name and logo incorporating Lex+, Bartels, Terra Nigra, Dümmen Group, Agribio China, Agribio Colombia, Oro, PLA and production locations.

June Eagle Plants bought by Newey Group.
June Dümmen Orange acquired Florexpo.
July Volmary bought Delamore.
July Northern Liners closed.
September Delamore acquired Botany Bay.
September Seiont Nurseries set to be sold.

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