Woodlark Nurseries managing director Colin Edwards says he is growing 15,000 more poinsettias this year, up from 40,000 in 2016.
The Stars for Europe campaign, which has funding from breeders, is being promoted through UK garden centres with British Protected Ornamentals Association's (BPOA) Simon Davenport and Greg Hill, as well as Edwards and JE Communications masterminding the promotion. National Poinsettia Day on 12 December will be the highlight of the campaign.
Edwards, based in Hersham, Surrey, says the campaign will be all about British growers, which is positive. "Most garden centres would prefer to by British if they can. With the euro, that's put us in a much more competitive pricing area. With English-grown poinsettia, garden centres are prepared to pay a bit of a premium as long as they get a quality plant," he adds.
"We have put another block of 15,000 down because we have the orders." He says garden centres are committing orders for 2018 and accepting slight price increases because they realise that costs are rising due to minimum wage legislation and higher prices for raw materials. "They are realistic about it."
The campaign will focus on point-of-sale for garden centres, the quality of breeding, and the variety and longer shelf life of new poinsettias.
Dümmen agent Newey has sold 2.5 million poinsettia cuttings in the UK this year. BPOA chairman Hill, who is a Hill Brothers director in Chichester, grows 650,000 poinsettias a year. He says Dümmen supplies roughly 70% of the UK market, which he estimates at three-million homegrown plants, with Selecta and Syngenta other cuttings suppliers.
The numbers he is growing are similar to 2016, he adds, but some growers are growing more. "We've had a lot more requests from independent retailers for poinsettias because the secondary wholesale market is almost non-existent these days.
"There's no doubt, if you're growing like-for-like product, as a UK grower, you should be in for a good time at the moment. If you do a lot of traded business you have to pass on those increased costs. Everything imported is up 20% but there's a cost increase for UK producers too. A lot of UK product has to see 3-5% increases. You have to pass that on in one shape or other."
Newey owner Alex Newey, who is growing 220,000 finished plants at Roundstone Nurseries near Chichester, adds: "You can’t ignore the fact that sterling is weak at the moment. UK-grown product in theory should be more value for money than last year."
He says the cost of doing business is gradually rising because of "significant" exchange rate changes, and prices will have to rise by 5-10%. Other challenges include rising labour costs caused by the National Living Wage and the lessening of the attractiveness of the UK as a workplace for Eastern European workers.
The BPOA's Simon Davenport says Stars for Europe's funds have more or less run out after several years of match-funding a levy from breeders, but some work is still happening and the BPOA is advising the UK PR company to build on 2016's Poinsettia Festival, aiming to increase numbers involved from seven centres to 15-20. Blue Diamond, Clifton, Millbrook and Pentland were involved last year.
Help for growers
Davenport says exchange rates are "bound to have an effect" to help UK growers, but big stores still sell at cost or as loss-leaders, so that would be limited. Those committed to UK products will see the benefit, he adds. Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer have won BPOA homegrown awards in recent years.
West Sussex grower Double H is not growing its own poinsettias this year. Double H's Neil Stevenson says it has been ramping down production to concentrate in all-year-round crops such as phalanopsis, chrysanthemum and pot roses. "It's too disruptive for us to put a spot crop in but there should be a big opportunity because of the weakness of the pound to increase competitiveness."
Garden Centre Association chief executive Iain Wylie says: "Garden centres have been more committed to British growers and suppliers than any other sector of retailing. I don't see any sign of that changing."
The BPOA is set to have a special general meeting this October to change its structure. Deputy chairman Kersten Catella is in line take over from chairman Greg Hill.