With an exceptional 2009 behind them, ADAS consultant Andrew Hewson predicted some growers supplying the retail market may have money in their pockets, which could mean added investment in automation, irrigation and integrated pest management.
But Wyevale director Doug Reade said few people would be increasing production: "Most nurseries haven't gone mad or massively decided to up production. We certainly haven't — we will be growing about the same as last year."
Like Wyevale, Johnsons of Whixley sells across retail and amenity. Director Andrew Richardson said he expects another tale of two markets in 2010.
"Given reasonable weather we should see good retail plant sales. But it is unbelievable hard work on the amenity side and prices are as low as they are going to be."
Bransford Webbs managing director Geoff Caesar struck a more optimistic note, saying reserve orders had been good as a result of a weak pound and demand for British stock: "Buyers in garden centres take a professional approach to reserve orders and work hard to honour them so the British grower is in a good position to have a positive 2010.
"Maintaining like-for-like sales through the spring will be dependent on weather, which is unlikely to be as good as last year, so I expect we will be pushing to keep sales moving through the second half of the year to achieve sales growth expectations."
Bedding growers remain hopeful that good weather will help continue a revival in their sector. Crosby's partner Nigel Crosby said: "We have had a few orders coming in from garden centres, which is a bit unusual. The trend seems to be getting back towards the six pack — garden centres seem more interested in them than the more expensive potted items."
Porters Horticultural sales and business development manager Marie Taylor was also reasonably optimistic: "Our order books are quickly filling up. Trends will move towards finished larger plants, giving good instant colour in gardens."
But the cold weather has led to large heating bills, which could have a knock on impact over the year. Consultant John Adlam suggested it could lead to young plant shortages as well as fuel bill rises: "I'm beginning to get some reports of plant damage. There may not be as many plants ready for the market as early as growers thought, which may mean shortages and price rises."
New water legislation and cuts in pesticides will also be issues, he added. Growers will not look to expand but rather focus on efficiency. Finally, he predicted the impact of R&D cuts would lead to more co-operation and a blurring of the traditional lines of stock classifications.
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