Investigation into traceability February 2017
As part of our stated commitment to promoting British Flowers – in place since 2007 – we pledge that we will always investigate any concerns about the provenance and traceability of flowers we supply. We always have, and we always will, and we also promise that we will keep our customers and supporters updated on those investigations and on any business changes we make as a result of them.
We have robust procedures in place to ensure that we are as good as our word – and as part of those procedures we have launched an investigation that will test out our pledge thoroughly.
The reason we are passionate about promoting British Flowers – initially through Wiggly Wigglers and more recently through our dedicated flower website www.greatbritishflorist.co.uk is because the UK flower-growing industry had been just about wiped out by imports.
In many parts of the world there are far fewer regulations on water use, pesticide use and of course labour, and mixed with the brilliance of Dutch distribution the UK growers went into freefall.
In fact it all got so potty that many British flower farmers were sending their flowers to Holland to be despatched back to the UK for sale. The decline was dramatic and commercial growers with glasshouses in Britain are now few and far between compared to the 70’s when there were 120 Chrysanthemum growers alone!
Statistics show that there only 10 per cent of the flowers sold in the UK are actually grown here. As farmers – and fans of garden flowers – we are on a mission to help change that and since we started promoting British blooms the market has most certainly grown. In fact, the UK’s appetite for cut flowers as a whole has grown, although it makes little difference to the percentage of home-grown blooms purchased.
In terms of protected cut flowers there are no accurate statistics but the NFU estimates that the value of cut flowers grown under protection in the UK is around the £25m mark – significant but still very small compared to the Dutch and many other countries. You can find out more here: https://www.nfuonline.com/assets/63880
At the Great British Florist we source our flowers by dealing with around 11 flower farmers directly and two or three wholesalers (depending on the time of year).
Each one is fully aware of our provenance requirements and has signed up to them. This means we are able to track flowers back to county and even sometimes to farm level with these written agreements in place.
We have great relationships with our suppliers and growers and are really proud to make a difference, especially in terms of outdoor flower production, where there has been a huge increase in small scale producers who grow a huge variety of blooms.
So in the light of this we take our commitment to investigate any questions over the provenance of our flowers very seriously indeed.
We promise to investigate any questions over traceability of flowers as part of our commitment to buying and selling British Flowers.
Unfortunately there is currently no accreditation scheme in place to guarantee the provenance of any British flowers, although we are already working with the industry to investigate how this could be achieved. So in the absence of any such scheme there has to be a level of trust from farmer to wholesaler to retailer.
Currently we are conducting an investigation with one of our suppliers, which means that currently we do not have the level of provenance that we need to guarantee that ALL the flowers we sell are UK-grown.
This means that while we have robust provenance on many of the flowers it is not currently the case on a percentage of those we supply.
To ensure that everyone is aware of the current situation we have updated our website to reflect this.
We will conclude this investigation on or before 28th February, at which point we will make it clear any impact the results might have on our business.
Update 22nd February on our provenance investigation.
Each time there has been a question over the traceability of a flower we have have conducted a thorough enquiry and have always been satisfied with the result.
However further to the above this February we were made aware of the need to demand more stringent traceability assurances from one supplier in particular.
Following this current investigation and written contracts we are still not happy that the evidence that has been provided guarantees that every bloom is 100% British, – and so from today we have severed all links with this particular supplier.
We will continue to push for a nationwide quality assurance mark that comprehensively assures the British provenance of our flowers, and until then are committed to ensuring that as many of the flowers sold by GBF as possible are wholly produced in the UK.
We will continue to promote and indeed focus on UK grown flowers but please note up until 28th February we will not have 100% British Grown Flowers. Once we have concluded this investigation we will make clear the impact that this will have on our future flowers (and business aims) and will continue to work to ensure as much transparency as possible and continue to focus on supporting flowers #grownnotflown