Kildate Grower's Trade Show - Recession fails to dampen optimism of Irish growers

Optimism in the face of recession in Ireland was the mood among exhibitors at the Kildare Growers' Trade Show last week.

Growers are seeking new markets and exhibitors were convinced that developers will increasingly realise new-builds must be landscaped to bag a sale in a slow housing market.

At last year's show Irish food agency Bord Bia revealed that the landscaping market was at a record high, hitting a market value of EUR860m (£579.4m). Since then the Irish economy has been officially declared to be in recession and 70,000 homes built last year have yet to sell.

On the opening day, Irish minister of state for food and horticulture Trevor Sargent argued that the amenity sector - which in Ireland comprises nursery stock, Christmas trees, cut foliage, bulbs and protected plants/flowers - would succeed despite a downturn in the economy because it was formed of businesses founded during a former recession in the 1970s. He argued that Irish growers could rely less on imports.

Sargent said: "The last census of hardy nursery stock showed there have been increased imports of plants, worth EUR19m. We import 1.5 million plugs and liners a year. But the level of imports may present our own nurseries with opportunities for expansion." Bord Bia is working on "import substitution strategies".

B&V Nurseries owner Val Farrell said: "Building has stopped here now but firms will have to use landscaping to sell what they've built already. We have a landscaping company attached to the nursery so that helps us along."

Tree and shrub nursery SAP Nurseries has diversified its practices to respond to the downturn in the landscaping sector. The company is now supplying big trees directly to the public, but is keeping its landscaper customers involved.

MARKET UPTURN

  • - Bord Bia discovered that the Irish horticultural amenity market (nursery stock, Christmas trees, cut foliage,bulbs and protected plants/flowers) is worth EUR1bn.
  • - This marks a 55 per cent rise in value since 2001/2002.
  • - Outdoor plants and flowers are up by 34 per cent since 2002, particularly pre-planted container and basket products and trees.

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