When I first entered the floristry industry, imported flower varieties were really only just taking off despite flowers being brought into the country for some 45 years. In those days you were paying premium prices for the stock, which was coming into the country in pretty small numbers, and the quality was hit and miss. The industry was in the midst of a major change back then. Wages and environmental factors as well as a market saturated with some lines was making it hard for Australian growers to survive. Many made the decision to leave the industry over the last couple of decades, while others adapted.
Imported flowers have always had some risk as it is largely unregulated….and it’s BIG business. ABC reports that approximately $67 million worth of flowers are imported every year from Columbia, Ecuador, Kenya, Singapore and other destinations.
Last year, after the 2017 review found less than half of imported flowers complied with environmental safeguards, the Federal Government announced they would increase our biosecurity measures. These steps would include the flowers being fumigated in their country of origin before being shipped here. This would add costs to the imported stock, and in turn impact the product shelf life. Even now, stock arriving from South America can be over a week old before it arrives on the florist shop floor.
So why do Aussies continue to import stock rather than use local products? Well, the answer is simple. As Harry Papadopoulos of Harry’s Wholesale Nusery puts it : “What we import are only the flowers that our clients demand and that aren’t available here, locally or interstate in Australia.”
The ABC reports that Perth based Florist Matthew Landers believes social media has paid a big part in this. Consumers see what they want, and if it is not available locally we are often able to import it.
The Papadopoulos family believe adding the extra biosecurity measures is unnecessary, and by implementing these changes, the stock quality will suffer. Harry’s Wholesale Nursery is a business that imports approximately 70% of its stock, any changes to our biosecurity systems will affect their business greatly.
Local roses businesses such as Nati Roses, have been growing their own roses for generations. For the most part, they grow old fashioned varieties of roses, that open all the way up, and are scented. This is what sets his business apart from the imports. As a local business he is also able to ensure his stock is fresh, and in most cases, what you buy today was picked the day before. He hopes that the rising costs of imports will be good news for his business. Along with other growers he would also like to see a Country of Origin labelling system brought in.
So what is the answer? Bernard Pollack of Pearsons Florist believes that local and imported stock needs to somehow coexist. Availability, quality, and quantity greatly affects why we need all options on the table. From an environmental stand point, it certainly would be better to utilise what we can produce ourselves. Aesthetically however, sometimes we cannot achieve what we need to artistically with the stock on hand. Event work, as well as Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day put great pressure on us to source great quality produce, in vast numbers and sometimes that just isn’t possible from our small pond. And for a small business, we certainly understand the value of local, community support….but what happens if your business survival depends on offering the imports?
Love to hear your thoughts
Feature Image by Ivan Kashinsky via Smithsonian Magazine