Poinsettia struggles aired at GroSouth

Growers at Wednesday's GroSouth trade show have emphasised what a risky crop poinsettia is, with energy bills high and imports rising.

Poinsettia (Stars for Europe)
Poinsettia (Stars for Europe)

HW 8-21 November reported on the state of the poinsettia market this year.

Roundstone managing director Peter Cook decided not to grow the crop at all in 2013 after growing 200,000+ last year. He said: "Not growing poinsettias and growing cyclamen instead has worked for us this year. We're not looking at huge gas bill because they're a fickle crop.

"We'll never grow poinsettia again unless there's a material change in the market place.

"We're sorry because so many customers want to buy British and we're sorry we're not working with Double H Nurseries, Sainsbury's or M&S, but we have made the right decision for our business. Double H will have to source more from Holland but this is the price that has to be paid at the end if you can't get a little bit more certainty to it.

"Heat costs were £50,000-plus a big investment because they're a tropical plants and you have to have them at 20 degrees to make them feel comfy. We're now growing cyclamen instead and they've sold through so we have no regrets."

Pentland Plants representative Jackie Clark said: "We're growing 70,000 poinsettia, the same as last year, with 35,000 for Sainsbury. There's a lot of Dutch coming in this year - we've seen some at Tesco. They're a very exact crop because of supermarket specification. Hills is doing 180,000 and Double H is finding an extra 30,000 for Sainsbury - we used to do 60,000 for Sainsbury. There used to be poinsettia growers all over the Clyde Valley, until heating crosts forced them out."

Pentland Plants owner David Spray said: "We use biomass to heat our crop, which means we pay 30 per cent of the heating costs of others. Installing biomass pays for itself in three years but its a big capital investment and there's not much money around.

"There has to be a future for UK poinsettia. We can't import them all from abroad because they don't travel. I saw some in B&Q and the tops were black. They must have been Dutch and looking like that is not a good thing to offer the public."

Hill Brothers director Greg Hill: "Energy prices are not going in the right direction to encourage poinsettia production but we're indoor houseplants producers and all roads lead to poinsettia so we have to grow them. UK production will be slightly down this year and there could be more imports. A lot of British retailers want British-produced product but the risk is prices will go up and there will be possible lower quality. We grow them much less densely  than on the continent so it is a different product there, produced to a lower specification."

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