Growers keep pace with results last year

Sales holding up despite sluggish Easter and unfavourable currency exchange rate but cheaper fuel prices help nurseries.

Nurseries: cautious production - image: HW
Nurseries: cautious production - image: HW

Demand this season is proving "even" with 2014 so far, according to growers, despite a sluggish Easter and disadvantageous exchange rate.

Cheaper fuel prices are aiding nurseries, but most have been cautious with the amount they are producing.

"So far this season is in equilibrium. Sales/demand is matching production/stock availability," said Jersey Plants Direct business and commercial development director Ian Riggs.

"We have yet to move to peak sales for spring/summer planting, pack bedding, begonia, lobelia, petunias, etc. Growers have grown to past sales. There appears little appetite to grow beyond known past sales. There is no evidence of other than 'usual' pre-planned retail promotions such as multibuys.

"There is a perception that retail prices have increased slightly from 2014 and some of this benefit has passed through to growers. Growers are also reaping the benefit of biomass and lower heating fuel prices.

"As we are approaching the decision time for additional crops for sales from June onwards, growers will be carefully weighing up all options, although a risk-averse policy seems likely.

"Of interest will be how far the move from pack bedding to containers continues. Early indications are that retailers will continue the move to added value/pre-planted, at the expense of pack bedding."

Neil Alcock, manager at liner producer Seiont Nurseries, said: "We're very busy. Sales are much the same as last year week by week. We're servicing a much wider range of customers. The pound is against us but exports are still quite strong. We're invoicing and banking in euros so there's a bit of an advantage."

BP has said oil prices will not rise soon. The price of a barrel of oil was five per cent cheaper in April than it was in March.

Sector snapshot - Sales up, fuel bills down

Chrysanthemums Direct said sales were 75 per cent up after a feature on Gardeners' World.

Another Grower of the Year award winner Brookfield Plants said sales were "ever so busy".

Potash Nursery owner Mike Clare said lower fuel prices meant that filling up his lorry was £15-£20 cheaper and oil heating bills have come down.

Heucheraholics agreed that filling a tank is cheaper. Devine Nurseries said filling a lorry now costs £110 rather than £140.

Many growers reported that plant growth is a couple of weeks behind 2014.

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