Imported flowers explained

Each country has unique growing conditions and a unique native flora. The most common foods that we grow and eat in Australia originated overseas.

Tomatoes, corn and potatoes were discovered and domesticated by the indigenous peoples of South America. Later, Spanish colonisers took these plants to Europe for study, acclimatisation and breeding.

A huge number of ornamental plants that we know and love are native to the Middle East, Central Europe and Central Asia. Hundreds of years of breeding has enabled those plants to grow outside their native growing area, however in most cases those plants remain most suited to certain climatic conditions that are similar to their ancestral origins.

Australia has many good growing regions for temperate flowers, but is most suited for Australia’s amazing and highly prized native flora.

More than 50 per cent of all flowers sold in Australia are imported, purely to meet consumer demand for certain flower varieties, and so consumers can experience and celebrate moments of delight, brightness, comfort, and reflection.

Thanks to the globalised flower trade market, consumers in most markets can obtain most species of flower at any time of the year.

There are many established flower and bulb trade links across the globe that fill seasonal supply. For example, North America is heavily supplied by South America, Europe by Africa and Japan out of South East Asia.

For many hundreds of years, Holland has been the premier bulb supplier to the world for Tulips, and lately for Lilies, Hyacinth, Daffodils, Hippeastrums and other bulb lines. This long history of knowledge and expertise, combined with a favourable climate, has seen Holland retain it’s reputation as the world’s premier bulb hub. Australia does import bulbs from Holland, but also produces it’s own, largely in Victoria and Tasmania, and also imports bulbs from other southern hemisphere countries including New Zealand and Chile.

Why are flowers imported?

Peak periods such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas demand large quantities of specific flower types, and may need up to 90 per cent imported product to meet consumer demand for those varieties.

Large wedding arrangements also require a pre-order of product as customers may demand specific cultivars and in quantities that the Australian production base may have difficulty supplying.

The current Australian production base means Australia cannot produce the relatively huge quantities required for floral events such as Valentine’s day, for which Australia can produce 400,000 stems, while the demand is for five million stems.

Australia does not have the optimal climate conditions to efficiently grow some species of flower to certain market grades, and many flower lines can also be out of season in Australia for months at a time. Some floral events follow the Northern Hemisphere timetable, which leaves a significant gap in production schedules.

The world’s premium grade roses are grown at 2500-3500 meters above sea level, and require a mild climate with equal dry length all year round. Such conditions can be found at high altitude on the equator. Roses grown under these conditions grow more slowly and produce very large heads that are highly prized in markets all over the world. Unfortunately, Australia does not have optimum growing conditions for these rose varieties. Growing high quality flowers needs more intensive inputs to control lighting, heating and cooling, and the season is often a little more limited.

In another example, commercial Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis orchids require warm to hot, humid conditions all year round, and some with seasons of cool, and the best growing climates are Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Roses and orchids cannot be easily substituted due to seasonality or climate. So, to meet consumer demand, flowers are imported from those countries with the best climate conditions to grow them.