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Valentine’s Day puts huge burden on Kiwi flower growers

Kiwi flower growers are coming under increasing pressure as cheap flower imports, mainly from India, flood the New Zealand market, says Flower Growers Association chairman, David Blewden.

Mr Blewden says around 50 percent of the roses sold each year for Valentine’s Day are now imported.

Not only is this affecting Kiwi growers’ livelihoods, it also poses biosecurity risks, he says.

“Imported flowers are usually treated with harsh chemicals like Round Up. This means they don’t last long once you’ve bought them and you have to be careful when handling them if you are sensitive to chemicals.

“But sometimes imported flowers slip through the cracks, don’t get treated properly and come into NZ carrying pests and diseases. We’ve had several instances of this and the risks to our industry, and to home gardeners, are huge.”

He says New Zealanders buy approximately 600,000 rose stems for Valentine’s Day and by far the majority are romantic red.

But Kiwi growers account for only about 300,000 rose stems destined for Valentine’s Day. The balance – another 300,000 stems sold for February 14 - comes into the country from India.

“Import volumes are growing each year because stems are massed produced overseas very cheaply. This is putting our local industry under severe pressure.

“Unfortunately, consumers don’t know that most of the roses they buy are imports. Perhaps if they did they’d ask their florist for NZ-grown stems. They’d certainly last longer and be of better quality when you got them home.”

Total annual rose production in New Zealand is approximately 12 million stems, grown on about 11 hectares.

As well as the red variety that is popular for Valentine’s Day, other prominent varieties are the David Austin garden roses, the Avalanche series, mauve and antique coloured roses and more recently coral coloured roses such as Miss Piggy and Karina.

About three million rose stems are imported each year, mainly from India and Colombia. The percentage of imports jumps rapidly for Valentine’s Day


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