Dutch beat Pentland Plants to £250K of poinsettia deals

Nursery's low-cost biomass energy strategy thwarted

By Gavin McEwan Midlothian glasshouse grower Pentland Plants has lost out on contracts worth around £250,000 to supply poinsettias to supermarkets, barely four months after installing a £200,000 biomass boiler to provide year-round low-cost heat. “Having put in a woodchip boiler to enable us to grow economically we now find that big buyers like Tesco and Marks & Spencer are buying all their plants in Holland so we have no orders for Scottish-grown poinsettias this year,” said partner David Spray. He blames the supermarkets for devaluing poinsettas. “Each year, they’ve been cheaper than the last,” he said. “It’s no longer a gift item, just something you pick up with a box of washing powder.” Spray added that the company would continue to grow small volumes of larger pot sizes, and continues to look for new customers. “You make no money out of poinsettias no matter what you do,” he said. “We’re essentially a plug grower — which we grow for nine months of the year. The icing on the cake was being able to grow a Christmas crop too — it keeps the permanent staff busy and covers the overheads.” Spray said the company is pressing ahead with its cheap heat strategy and is looking at investing in a facility for chipping virgin wood, avoiding the problem of residual nails and bolts in recycled wood.

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