Weak pound boosts cut flowers

UK cut-flower growers are benefiting from the unfavourable euro exchange rate against the pound, as largest retailer Tesco is buying more UK product at the expense of Dutch growers.

Traditionally, British retailers buy nearly half their cut flowers from Holland but now it is cheaper to buy in the UK. Tesco has switched a proportion of its cut-flower account from Holland to the UK.

However, now a supplier of daffodils to Tesco, Really Welsh, is reporting that the battle lines are being drawn between the Welsh and the Cornish.

Tesco's cut flowers technical manager David Fryer said: "Most large British retailers buy their cut flowers from Holland because Dutch growers have the scale of operation that makes it economically viable to buy from them.

"With the current poor exchange rate that is no longer the case and the big UK flower retailers are taking more blooms from British growers. While we have always supported British growers, we are now putting more orders their way, which will result in a potential annual increase of around £10m.

"But if you add all the big UK flower retailers together, this could mean an estimated extra £50m income for British growers."

One of the first British growers benefiting from increased orders is Penzance-based firm Winchester Growers, which is currently supplying Tesco with daffodils.

In the past few weeks the company, which also grows tulips, lilies, dahlias and sunflowers, has seen a 15 per cent increase in orders. Winchester commercial director Simon Pearson said: "The falling value of sterling has been good news and if current demand for tulips and daffodils is anything to go by, this will be a very good season for us.

"But the credit crunch is also having a marked effect on flower-buying trends, with shoppers trading down to buy more affordable rather than exotic blooms, so we think this will also help increase demand for UK-grown varieties."

Really Welsh commercial director Richard Arnold, last year's sales and marketing professional winner at HW's Grower of the Year Awards, said the issue was now battling with UK-grown competition.

"We sell to Tesco and Waitrose in Wales but at the beginning of this year Tesco took some Cornish crop instead because our crop suffered in the snow and from temperatures down to -10 degsC. The question for us is whether we can continue with strong Welsh sales and keep the Cornish out?"

He said recent sales had been buoyant, adding: "We sold every single daffodil destined for St David's Day (1 March) - an improvement on last year when we still had fields of gold.

"But the market has slackened off since then," he added. "The next test is Mothering Sunday. Will dads splash out on expensive imported stuff or will they buy local? We're hoping they will buy local, helping Really Welsh growers like Nick Reynolds from Cardiff."

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