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NZ flower growers squeezed by foreign imports

There are growing calls to label cut flowers with their country of origin. NZ growers say a recent surge in imported flowers is driving down prices and that's hurting. They want consumers to know when they buy flowers exactly what they're getting and where it's come from.

The only roses on the shelves of one popular flower shop in Auckland are all the way from south India. They're on the shelves because they're cheaper than locally grown ones. Right now it's more difficult than ever for local growers.

"Just recently, the last two or three months, there's been a great proliferation of imported product," says United Flowers Growers' Bruce O'Brien.

The problem is the types of flowers they're importing are also grown here. Crysanthenums can come all the way from Malaysia, and roses from Colombia.

"They've got big heads and big, long stems, but generally the vase life isn't so good," says rose grower Steve Moffatt.

Part of the reason they don't last as long as local flowers is because of the time it can take to get them here.

"There's this thing called flower miles," says Mr O'Brien. "They're grown in Thailand, flown to Holand, taken to market, then flown to New Zealand to be sold in our marketplace."

Mr O'Brien says some importers claim there's a shortage of flowers available from local growers, but that's not necessarily true.

"But generally New Zealand production can cover the basic needs of flowers."

And local growers want consumers to know about the chemicals used on imported flowers.

"Imported roses have to be dipped in an herbicide, a weed killer, for 20 minutes before they come into the country," says Mr Moffatt.

To help consumers make an informed choice, the Flower Growers Association is pushing for country-of-origin labelling. As things are, they don't know if their flowers are coming from west Auckland or west Africa.

United Flower Growers says the import market right now is crazy and the only way for consumers to know where their flowers are from is by asking the retailer.
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