Rising demand and costs could see big increase in stock prices rocket

Nursery-stock suppliers have warned that plant prices could rise by up to 20 per cent this year because of rising costs and high demand for stock across Europe.

Various factors are putting pressure on costs and supply levels, which is affecting European plant prices. Container-grown plants from the Continent are up by 10 to 15 per cent while field-grown plants have risen by up to 30 per cent. Until now, growers in the UK have absorbed most increases or found ways to reduce overheads, but they now say price rises are inevitable if they are to stay in business. Factors causing the price rises include: the record low pound-to-euro rate, which is making imports from the Continent more expensive; the shortage of plants available due to booming commercial development in France, Germany and eastern Europe increasing demand; rising fuel prices pushing up transport costs; and wage increases imposed last year. Nurserymen spoken to by HW say the pound’s plummet over the Christmas break was effectively the final straw, with some already raising prices and others planning to. Lincolnshire-based Crowders Nurseries owner Robert Crowder said: “We’re putting our prices up just to cover the extra costs. It’s not to increase our profits but to maintain the profitability that we can.” While the immediate impact would be on commercial landscape customers, he expects the garden centre market to be affected soon. He said it was concerning, adding: “I wonder if the rest of the industry is aware of the impact it will have. Some nurseries don’t think about this until they have to pay their European suppliers’ bills.” HTA business development director Tim Briercliffe said he believed there were opportunities open to UK growers. “The fuel issue is very serious and highlights the need for the industry to look more at collaborating on transport costs.” He said British growers could become more competitive with their Dutch rivals whose prices would no longer be as attractive. Johnsons of Whixley managing director Andrew Richardson confirmed it had raised prices. The company was also considering a fuel surcharge. “Growers have got to a point where we’ve got to make a better return, otherwise there’s no point being in business,” he said. He added that if bulk fuel prices stayed at their current level — 7p higher than in August — £25,000 would be added to the company’s annual fuel bill just to deliver the same amount of plants. Pot prices have risen by about 10 per cent because oil was used in their manufacture, while imports of young liners had gone up by a similar figure, Richardson said.

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