Edwards On ... Plant prices should increase on demand

This is a familiar theme, so familiar I'm almost uncomfortable raking it over again: isn't it time we saw the price of plants increase? Two harsh winters have caused greater plant losses than we've seen in many a year - that's stock in parks and gardens as well as nurseries - and the net effect is an increase in demand while production has reduced.

Shortages have kicked in sooner and to a greater degree than usual this season. That would be enough to bring about a price rise in the market of most products.

The global economic crisis hit UK housebuilding and commercial construction some years ago. Pessimism deepened as we lived under the threat and then the reality of public sector spending cuts.

Figures are difficult to come by but UK production has certainly reduced over that time, yet most amenity suppliers have been surprised by an increased level of business this season. This amounts to a reduction in supply and an increase in demand.

And, as I write at least, the spring is shaping up impressively for the gardening public. The retail market is so vibrant that amenity producers have found themselves taking enquiries to supply garden centres.

On top of all this good news, we're being helped by the currency markets. A strong euro puts our European competitors at a disadvantage. Again, demand is strong, but the expense of foreign stock puts a brake on supply.

The thing that's lacking is confidence. Housebuilders have opened up sites, but are their customers buying houses? Commercial developers are back at work, but is there real demand or are they just catching up on projects they can't put off any longer?

There's no shortage of work to be done on public sector projects that were financed before the election, but where's the new work coming from?

Who knows? The point is, there's greater demand for plants than the UK can supply right now, which means expensive stock will have to be brought in from Europe. So can we please see prices move a little closer to where they should be?

Tim Edwards is chairman of boningale nurseries.


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