Coronavirus: Retailers urged to stock more British flowers

A third of British ornamental firms could fail due to the impacts of Covid-19, it has been estimated
A third of British ornamental firms could fail due to the impacts of Covid-19, it has been estimated

Retailers have been asked to stock more British flowers and plants as the coronavirus outbreak has 'severely impacted' the ornamentals sector, the NFU has said.

The union has urged retailers to provide more support for ornamental businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak by starting to rebuild their stocks in stores.

Many have reduced or stopped stocking flowers and plants amidst efforts to prioritise essential food supplies, as well as garden centres, florists and the cancellation of seasonal events.

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) estimates the total value of the 2020 ornamental crop - flowers and bulbs, pot plants and hardy nursery stock - to be £1.4bn.

It also estimates that a third of ornamental businesses could fail due to the impacts of Covid-19.

In the open letter, NFU President Minette Batters and horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper applauded supermarkets’ quick response to the change in consumer buying.

However, they highlighted more can be done in the coming weeks to play their part in supporting the ornamentals sector.

Upon publication of the letter, Mrs Batters said: “Since the start of lockdown our supermarkets have been rightly focused on ensuring the public has access to essential foods and products during the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are now in a period where food sales have stabilised, and we ask that retailers restock British flowers and plants and do all they can to support businesses which have been suddenly left without any of their key outlets.

“The ornamentals sector is a truly vibrant part of British production and delivers huge benefits for society – from the bright colours we see in public parks to our very own gardens and kitchen tables – and we need to do all we can during this crisis to protect its future.”

Ali Capper added that re-opening stocks of flowers and plants will not only help growers, but will help 'brighten the public's days during this difficult time'.

"Like fresh food, flowers and plants are perishable. Growers are looking for new ways to get their products to the public, but if retail stock remains as low as it is then many of these plants will simply go to waste.

“At a time when ornamental businesses would be making the majority of their yearly income, this loss could have significant implications both financially and on farmers’ mental wellbeing."

The NFU is asking the government to support the sector by guaranteeing that garden centres will be among the first businesses allowed to re-open under a phased exit of the lockdown.

It has also asked for appropriate financial support for firms which have had to dispose of stock, and ensuring that current government loans are accessible at the necessary levels for growing businesses.