Market pushes British flowers

Work done to promote British-grown flowers but latest figures show production remains low.

Promotion: selling more flowers
Promotion: selling more flowers

Opportunities to grow and sell more British cut flowers are being highlighted as latest research underlining the low level of current British cut-flower production.

Work to promote British-grown includes New Covent Garden Flower Market running British Flowers Week on 16-20 June. The organisers said there are opportunities to sell more British flowers. Meanwhile, the Great British Flower Seminar in June aims to boost production.

The latest figures show Britain imports £284m of roses and chrysanthemums annually, with British growers making up 3.5 per cent of the horticulture market.

Suffolk-based Geaters West End Nursery owner Ron Geater, Britain's biggest lisianthus grower, said he has seen many false dawns for British-grown cut flowers.

"One or two more people are saying they want British flowers," he added. "We're now supplying quite a lot to Waitrose through Butters. At the moment it is stocks and they're rather pleased to have British flowers instead of imported ones."

On New Covent Garden he said: "I'm certain once the demand is there for British product at a reasonable price, British growers will jump in."

Geater said 40 years ago Covent Garden supplied 70-80 per cent British-grown, but it is now five-to-10 per cent. He criticised Interflora for not promoting British flowers.

Simon Redden, owner of Lincolnshire tulip grower Par4Flowers, said the current sterling level encourages supermarkets to buy overseas. "When you walk into a supermarket and look at the flower display you should see British daffodils and tulips but its 80 per cent chrysanthemums and carnations.

"There's definitely no upsurge in interest in the UK product. I'm dumping 30,000 tulips a week. Supermarkets are buying flowers from outside the UK and putting them in front of UK product."

But New Covent Garden Market Authority business development head Helen Evans said its 2012 survey showed 74.4 per cent of traders have seen increased demand for British flowers.

High-end London florists are demanding British-grown and buying from the market, and niche British-grown flowers are in demand, she added.

Florist Shane Connolly said it is easy to find British flowers in London. "There's no excuse in the UK not to have British-grown flowers on offer, certainly in spring.

"The more we ask for them and the more interest there is in them, the more will be grown. Think of organic food even 10 years ago. Now it's readily available."

Imports - Farm survey

According to the University of Reading's Farm Business Survey, the biggest import is cut flowers. This includes £157m of roses (12 per cent) and £127m of chrysanthemums (10 per cent). The industry is worth £2.1bn a year, with British-grown product estimated at £140m.

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