Poinsettia risks highlighted at GroSouth

Rising energy costs and increasing level of imports blamed as producers seek alternatives to growing poinsettia crops.

Spray: biomass heating utilised
Spray: biomass heating utilised

Poinsettia grower numbers have shrunk further this year, with growers at GroSouth (13 November) stressing that it is a risky crop as energy bills and imports both rise.

Roundstone, Fresh Acres and Coletta & Tyson are among those to have given up over the past two years. Fresh Acres stopped growing poinsettia five years ago "because of heating costs", but is now installing a biomass boiler.

Peter Eastwood Nurseries, which said producer numbers have halved from more than 100 to around 40, and Pinewood Nurseries have both cut production by between one-third and a half. Coletta & Tyson gave up in 2011 with director Paul Tyson citing "spiralling energy costs".

British Protected Ornamentals Association chairman Ian Riggs said: "There will be fewer British poinsettias this year and garden centres and supermarkets can always go to Holland. We are talking about diminishing choice and people may end up buying Dutch and Belgian poinsettias. If growers see that last year's fuel bill was high, that is what they base their decision on. A lot have switched to cyclamen."

Roundstone managing director Peter Cook decided to swap cyclamen for poinsettia in 2013 after growing 200,000+ poinsettia last year. He said the crop had a £50,000+ energy cost. "We'll never grow poinsettia again unless there's a material change in the marketplace."

"We're sorry because so many customers want to buy British and we're not working with Double H Nurseries, Sainsbury's or Marks & Spencer, but we made the right decision for our business."

Double H is preparing to supply more than 500,000 poinsettias to its customers before Christmas. The Hampshire nursery recently won an Investors in People gold award "for going above and beyond in the way they develop, support and motivate their team".

Pentland Plants is growing 70,000 poinsettias this year, with 35,000 for Sainsbury's. Hill Brothers is doing 180,000 while Double H is finding an extra 30,000 for Sainsbury's.

Pentland Plants owner David Spray said: "We use biomass to heat our crop, which means we pay 30 per cent of others' heating costs. Installing biomass pays for itself in three years but it's a big capital investment.

Schools campaign - Poinsettias for pupils

The Sun's schools campaign has had entries from more than 200 schools seeking to win mini poinsettias for their pupils to grow as well as large poinsettias to decorate Christmas plays or take to local retirement homes to give to residents.

Hill Brothers will be supplying 1,200 minis and 60 large plants to be divided between at least six schools. Sainsbury's will help to deliver and sell the plants.

Poinsettia group Stars for Europe is backing the scheme and has downloadable material available on its website (see www.stars-for-europe.com).

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