Seed suppliers in Britain and the United States report an unprecedented rise in sales with people worldwide turning to gardening to supplement their food supply or simply as a hobby.
Seed suppliers struggle to meet demand as people turn to gardening
Seed retailers in the UK and the US are struggling to cope with a huge surge in demand for fruit and vegetable seeds, as people around the world take up gardening during the coronavirus lockdown. With garden centres closed, online seed retailers are reporting demand for seeds spiking to up to ten times normal levels for the time of year, with salad leaves and tomatoes proving among the most popular crops for amateur gardeners. Even in Russia, demand for seeds rose by 20%-30% year-on-year in March, according to online retailer Ozon.
Home gardening blooms worldwide as people buy seeds in record numbers
People around the world are turning to gardening as a relaxing, family-friendly hobby that also eases concerns over food security as lockdowns slow the harvesting and distribution of some crops, reported The Guardian.
In the UK, the Seed Co-operative, which is owned and run by its members, has reported that orders are up to six times higher than a year ago. Meanwhile, the Royal Horticultural Society has seen a fivefold rise in queries for advice on its website during the lockdown.
South West garden supplies firm Suttons has seen a surge of orders with millions of seed packets sold and 150,000 new customers since the lockdown began.
Online sales for seeds and plants have soared since March with vegetables initially coming out tops when panic buying left the supermarket shelves empty.
Managing director David Robinson told Business-Live: “I’ve been told not to feel guilty about it. It doesn’t feel right that our sales have been so high when other people have not fared so well but we just have to get on and do what we can.”
“In the last month we have sold around 1million seed packets. To begin with, it was lettuce and fast growing vegetables and I think that was in response to the panic buying in the supermarkets and people were thinking that they would have to grow food for themselves. Then it was things like runner beans which take longer to grow but it is the type of plant that people feel confident that they will have success with.
“We have streamlined our offer to 40 varieties to be able to cope with demand and so everyone can get their tomatoes or carrots.”
Up the road in Scotland, the wildflower seed specialists Kabloom, popular for their “seedboms”, says it has seen its sales soar tenfold since the end of March. Its starch-based, compostable, hand-grenade shaped plantable containers, which are designed to burst on impact with the ground, are full of compost and seeds.
The US seed industry hasn’t seen anything like this since the Great Depression
Meanwhile in the US, Jere Gettle’s garden seeds company hadn’t seen anything like it before.
"The biggest day we’ve had in our 22-year history was Monday, 30 March," the owner of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri told the BBC. "We had over 10,000 orders, up 10 times on what our normal would be. It was totally overwhelming."
Mr Gettle’s company, the largest seller of heritage variety vegetable and flower seeds in the US, ran out of half of its stock, as buyers rushed to its website so they could grow everything from tomatoes to potatoes, and spinach to corn.
"The whole seed industry hasn’t seen anything like this since the Great Depression," he explained.
He said that the last time his business saw a similar, but smaller, spike in sales was after the 2008 recession, and following the 1999 "millennium bug" fears.
"And it’s not just food [this time]. It’s flowers, herbs, everything is selling at unbelievable rates."
Mr. Gettle told the BBC he now plans to source a five-year supply of seeds rather than his previous two years. He says that the global seed industry "needs to build a bigger safety net".
Gary Ibsen, owner of TomatoFest, has seen increases sales too, especially during the last few days. “I’m sensing that there are many folks who are home in self-quarantine who are more than concerned about the virus and national economic crisis wanting to be assured they have sufficient seeds for current or future growing,” he told EverybodyGardens.
“By having access to seeds for the future every gardener has access to food that might not be available otherwise.”
Russia sees seed sales skyrocket
Reuters reported that in Russia, demand for seeds rose by 20%-30% year-on-year in March. Russians are isolating in out-of-town cottages with plots of land, a traditional source of vegetables during tough times since the Soviet era, and rooftop farms are planned in Singapore, which relies heavily on food imports.
And Canada-based Stokes Seeds, which ships to the United States and Canada, received 1,000 online orders during the weekend of March 21, four times more than normal, President Wayne Gayle said.
Gardening may be a rare positive trend to emerge from the crippling pandemic, said Diane Blazek, executive director of the U.S. industry group National Garden Bureau.
“We’ll come out in the end and hopefully everyone will be eating better and gardening more and more self-reliant,” she said.
For a list of seed sources in the US, click here.
For a list of seed sources in the UK, click here.
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