There is a generation of florists in the Uk who have grown up believing that the flower world begins and ends in Holland. But this hasn’t always been the case.
Paul from BJRichards explains the fall and rise of the British flower industry:
My name is Paul, I’m 41 and fifth generation flower grower. I remember as a young boy going out on our flower vans with my dad, we called at every single shop and they all bought from us, not just us though, there were 4 or 5 local wholesalers and we all had a fair share of the market. Some like us were growers as well as wholesalers with all of us growing various different crops such as Carnations and Spray Carnations, Chrysanthemums & Freesias. It was a different world back then; at least 80% of the flowers we sold if not more were produced here in Great Britain. In the 1970’s there were more than 120 Chrysanthemum growers alone producing some 60 million stems a year, the British flower trade was blooming. Less than 40 years on and there are now only 3 professional Chrysanthemum growers and no Carnation & Spray Carnation growers at all. In fact just 10% of the £2.25 billion spent by the Great British public on flowers is produced here in the UK today.
So what happened?
The death of the British growers can be linked to the rise of the Dutch flower trade. As early as the 1950’s the Dutch Government identified their culture of smallholding farming was failing so they embarked on a programme of purchasing farms that were economically unviable then over time selling or leasing them back to more successful farmers. This was followed by a series of subsidies on things like energy that enabled Dutch flower growers to expand and produce cheap flowers as well as invest in technology and research. By the Eighties the Dutch flower trade was booming and the UK saw the arrival of the ‘Flying Dutchman’ and cheap imported flowers on a major scale. British florists welcomed them with open arms eager for something new as well as cheaper prices and local growers and wholesalers began to disappear in increasing numbers.
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