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Daffodil industry in UK marks the arrival of spring

  • Daffodil industry in UK marks the arrival of spring

    by Market Insider

    Tuesday, 10 Mar. 2015

    The Westcountry daffodil economy has sprung into life, turning great swathes of the countryside a riotous yellow. An army of pickers – once home grown workers but now imported from Eastern Europe – has descended on the Cornish 'fields of gold' to kick-start an industry which is worth £45 million nationally.

    The east of England around Lincolnshire and Norfolk joins the Grampian region of Scotland in growing large quantities of narcissi but the Cornwall plantations account for around half the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) haul.

    Almost 10,000 acres (4,047 ha) are now grown, half of that exported to Europe and North America as cut-flowers. But as with many flowering plants, Cornwall – with its extra sunshine and warming Gulf Stream waters – is the first to harvest the popular harbinger of spring.

    Fourth generation farmers James and Jeremy Hosking of Fentongollan Farm [pictured] grow 170 acres (69 ha) at St Michael Penkivel, on the banks of the River Fal inlet.

    The brothers are continuing a farming tradition dating back to 1883 and follow on from father Jim Hosking who started sending daffodil flowers by post in the early 1970s.

    Today the family grows over 300 different varieties producing around 15 million flowers sent nationwide and to Europe via their Flowers by Post service.

    James Hosking tells that the simple flower had won a place on the nation’s heart. 'It has long been a national tradition of ours to put daffodils on the table – it is a sign that spring is coming,' he added.

    'It is not just a pretty flower but it actually means something to people. It’s position has always been the harbinger of spring, perhaps because it is so much more visible than flowers such as the crocus and the snowdrop'.

    The Fentongollan crop represents around 15million stems, sold as bunches of ten, though larger operators often pick as many as 20million bunches.
    Winchester Growers, Rowe Farming and RH Scrimshaw and Sons on the Helford are among the established names.

    Fifth generation farmer Stuart Smith grows daffodils and other flowers at Rosebud Cottage Flower Farm, Rosudgeon, near Penzance. Over the water on the Isles of Scilly, John and Josephine Smith of Old Town, St Mary’s started growing daffodils in the 1880s and descendants continue to this day.

    Thousands of pickers will be working in the fields, from dawn until dusk, often recruited by gangmasters and picking around 1,000 bunches a day to earn about £75. James Hosking employs around 30 pickers for the season, which runs from January to April, mostly coming from Eastern European countries such as Lithuania and often students on gap years.

    A veteran who used to pick as a youngster and held his dad loading the crop onto trains at Truro station in the 1980s, James says the nature of the casual labour has changed over the generations.

    He added: 'In the old days most of the pickers used to be housewives who did it to earn holiday money but they petered out when the unemployed from places like Bodmin and Newquay started.

    'My brother and I used to do it to earn money - it is hard work, no doubt about it. And then all the other local children would have helped us, but you don’t get the current generation to do it.

    'Realistically, if you are a lone Cornish picker now you wouldn’t want to pick in a field of Eastern Europeans because you would be the outsider.

    'The reality for us as growers is we needed this supply of labour, which came in just as the locals stopped.'

    Source: Western Morning News

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