Florists turn farmers amid pandemic import shortage – The Land – 20 December 2021

By Samantha Townsend

What happens when you can’t get produce to fill your orders? You grow it yourself.

This is what florist and beef producer Leanne Davis did during pandemic as imported flowers were scarce.

The department of agriculture figures show that between January 1, 2020 and December 6, 2021 there were around 11,000 consignment of fresh cut flowers stems imported into Australia.

This was well down on the 15,200 imported consignments between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.

“A lot of what we use in Australia comes from overseas but when the pandemic hit all imports virtually stopped so I thought what can I do to overcome this problem,” said Mrs Davis, who runs Ellerslie Flowers at Kempsey

At the start of this year she shifted the sheep to greener pastures and turned their paddock into a flower farm using recycled old tanks to grow the flowers as she wasn’t confident about the soil.

“There was a lot of experimentation with different varieties,” she said.

By Mothers Day, the flower farm substituted a third of what they couldn’t buy.

From there she added more flower beds and now has 20 varieties.Mrs David said there was now a movement ‘grown not flown” where many florists were turning to locally grown product or doing it themselves.

“Like food flowers are seasonal and we are tyring to make people aware of where their flowers come from and it’s also saving on the flower miles in transportation,” Mrs Davis said.

The next step is purchasing a cool room to store the flowers so she can supply other local florists.

“I can never substitute the experience of established growers and the quality and reliability of what they offer.”

Australian Flower Traders Association (AFTA) founding member Craig Musson said local production volumes were unable to keep up with retail demand, with more than 50 per cent of all flowers sold in Australia being imported.

“The reduced availability of imported flowers has contributed – along with the high cost of locally grown flowers – to a number of new micro flower farms, which market directly to consumers or align with local florists,” Mr Musson said.

“AFTA is excited by the prospect of new farms being developed around Australia, new people coming into our industry, which has enormous potential.”

The top five countries that exported fresh cut flowers and foliage into Australia between January 1, 2016 and December 6, 2021 were Kenya with 12,000 consignments followed by Malaysia 6400, Ecuador 6300, Colombia 4400 and China 2100.