4 Jul 2014

Lilies by Blewden

From Country Life, 9:13 pm on 4 July 2014

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Flower grower numbers wilt

The president of the New Zealand Flower Growers’ Association says New Zealanders may have to increasingly rely on fresh flower imports because of an exodus of growers from the industry here.

David Blewden, who is one of the country’s largest lily growers, says preliminary results from a survey of growers show grower numbers have plummeted and of those remaining in the industry many are looking to retire.

He says this decline will lead to a limited range of New Zealand grown flowers on the market.

The Flower Growers’ Association has been reviewing its data base and a core team has been given a list of growers to contact.

David Blewden says of the 120 contacts on his list, 40 were still active flower growers, of those 40, many were not employing any staff and most were talking about reaching the end of their growing careers.

Of those who had already left the industry, most had shut down their operations.

He says a colleague also canvassing growers has encountered similar responses.

David Blewden says the industry needs to find a way to attract young people, with the average age of a flower grower in New Zealand being 56 or 57.

“Younger people are put off by the high cost of entering the industry especially if they want a greenhouse operation. Getting a return on your investment can be tricky.”

And he says many retiring growers choose not to sell their businesses as a going concern.

“For growers sitting on very valuable pieces of land sometimes the best option is for them to shut the nursery down and to subdivide the land. They’ll sometimes get a much better return that way than if they tried to sell the business.”

The data from the grower survey will be collated and analysed by early next month.

David Blewden grows 1.2 million stems of lilies a year on his property near Cambridge in Waikato.