Like many industries, the domestic retail downturn is hitting cut flower growers hard. Flowers have been a lot easier to import than export thanks to our strong dollar – with Japan far and away our biggest overseas market – and fewer consumers are indulging in discretionary spending as they tighten their belts post-GFC.
But local growers are also having their profit margins squeezed by supermarkets, thanks to what a recent IbisWorld report calls “the unprecedented bargaining power of leading supermarket retailers over the supply chain” – a power supermarkets are exploiting, as CHOICE recently revealed.
Brinson agrees supermarkets are putting downward pressure on producer prices for cut flowers. He also says that “when you pick up a cheap bunch of flowers at your local supermarket or convenience store, they’re not the same quality as those you’d get in a florist and the sales staff aren’t likely to be as well-trained”.
Similarly, the IbisWorld report argues that “supermarkets and convenience stores are less equipped [than specialist florists] to minimise spoilage, without the precise temperature-controlled fridges used by florists, necessitating flowers that are more resilient as well as some margin for spoilage”.
Industry best practice
The Flower Association of Queensland Inc (FAQI) with the support of Horticulture Australia has compiled Best Bunch, an industry best practice guide designed to “improve sustainable farm management and provide information, references and contacts” for Australian cut flower growers and suppliers.
Although prepared specifically for Queensland growers, it outlines suggested practices covering aspects of farm management that are applicable to all growers in all states, from legal requirements and staff safety to irrigation, energy use and pest/disease management.
And FAQI’s quarterly Australian Flower Industry Magazine contains a range of articles and information written by industry experts specifically addressing the needs of the Australian cut flower and foliage industry. See australianflowerindustry.com.au.