Frequently Asked Questions
Setting up a Flower Business in South Australia
A Guide for New Flower Growers
Section I: SAFGA – What is it? …and what is its role?
“What is SAFGA?”
SAFGA is the South Australian Flower Growers Association, Inc. Established in 1984, SAFGA is recognized by the State Government as the body officially representing the flower industry within South Australia. In 1997, SAFGA affiliated with the high-profile South Australian Farmers Federation (SAFF) providing even stronger representation for SAFGA members. The link was further strengthened when SAFGA became a Commodity Section of SAFF in 1999.
“What does SAFGA do?”
In simplest terms, SAFGA exists to benefit the flower industry of South Australia.
As well as representing growers on an official level, SAFGA works on distribution of information affecting growers on various issues, e.g new pests and diseases, safe chemical application, markets etc.
Information may be distributed by various means, including:
Meetings – an opportunity for members to discuss issues directly with each other
Workshops – for the learning of new skills or ideas for improving business
Newsletters – to distribute information and report issues that may affect growers
“How do I join SAFGA?”
Firstly, there are 4 types of membership of SAFGA available:
Full Membership – available to all flower growers,
Associate Membership – available to those that are not growers, but are involved in industries associated with the flower industry (e.g. wholesalers, suppliers of products and services),
Student Membership – available to students who have a large component of their studies revolving around floriculture,
Affiliate Membership – available to interested people for whom SAFF membership is inappropriate.
Full Membership is handled directly by SAFF, as all SAFGA Full-Members also become Full Members of SAFF (see references for contact details).
Associate, Student and Affiliate Membership enquiries should be directed to SAFGA.
“How much does it cost to join SAFGA?”
As SAFGA Full Members are also SAFF members, membership is determined by SAFF. The cost of membership varies from $280.50 - $748.00 and is based on gross sales, as determined by SAFF regulations.
2000 / 2001 Subscription Rates (incl. GST)
$50,000 – 100,000
$100,000 – 175,000
$175,000 – 250,000
Business & Commercial
Under 25 years
Formerly a Full Member
Affiliate and student membership is controlled by SAFGA and costs $110 per year for Affiliate Members and $40 per year for Student Members.
“What benefits are there in joining SAFGA?”
As well as recognized representation and the distribution of information of issues as mentioned above, SAFGA members are able to claim discounts for various products and services, e.g.:
- 10% discount at “Trims” clothing store,
- Discount air-freight rates with Ansett Australia CARGO
- Discount air-freight rates with Australian Air Express
- 10% discount on Neem Oil purchases from Paul Page
(Information about other discounts may be obtained from SAFF)
Section II: SAFGA and growing flowers for the first time
“I have a small block and thought I might grow flowers for some extra income. What can I grow?”
Unfortunately, many properties bought for their lifestyle attractions are unsuited to commercial flower production. Factors to be considered include water supply, frost, arable acreage, transport (to and from markets), availability of labour, one’s own horticultural skills, availability of capital for investment and the intended market.
These factors apply not only to flowers, of course, but to ANY crop!
“How do I grow carnations (bulbs, banksias, leucadendrons…)?”
Learning to grow a particular crop well is a matter of knowledge and experience. Assistance is available through membership of grower groups such as SAFGA and Australian Flora and Protea Growers Association (AFPGA). (SAFGA members grow all sorts of flowers, in tunnels or greenhouses, or outdoors in plantations. AFPGA members generally grow perennials outdoors). The Rural Solutions section of the Department of Primary Industries & Resources SA (PIRSA), provides professional consultancy. Various TAFE colleges teach basic horticultural skills.
Unfortunately, SAFGA cannot provide technical information for the establishment of new crops. Flower production is too complex a process to describe usefully by phone.
Establishment of a flower farm requires lots of technical know-how. An excellent first contact is the Horticulture Consultant - Floriculture, based at PIRSA’s Lenswood Laboratories – telephone number: (08) 8389 8800
SAFGA is a representative body, uniting and informing a wide range of flower growers. Attending SAFGA meetings is a good way of meeting other growers.
“I don’t mind a bit of work - it’s not that hard, is it?”
Many first-time growers want to get into flower growing believing it to be “easy” and that income from flowers is “easy money”. Neither idea is correct.
Growing cut flowers is like growing any other horticultural crop. It is a labour-intensive business, not a pleasant lifestyle sideline! Whether indoors (in tunnels or greenhouses) or outdoors (in plantations), you get dirty, wet and uncomfortable.
Gardening expertise or a love of flowers is not much use in risky and potentially costly business decisions. Australia is part of a world market. There are no rules.
“But the prices at florists are so high!”
Many first-time growers imagine the high prices for flower arrangements in florist shops reflects a high farm-gate price. Florists’ costs include rent, electricity, water, staff, etc. Then there is the profit margin on top – florists have to eat.
“Can’t you get good money for flowers then?”
Markets for flowers are highly competitive!
Prices for flowers fluctuate widely. Returns to the grower are usually low, rising when demand is high - e.g. before major occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, etc.
“What flowers can I grow to make the most money?”
The balance of market demand/supply is very important. It’s not which flowers you can you grow, but which flowers can you sell!
Flower prices have generally remained more or less static for many years. The farm-gate price of carnations has changed little over the last 20 years! But over the same period there has been a steady rise in costs of fertilizers, pesticides, labour, transport, etc. As a result, the actual return to carnation growers has fallen.
This scenario is common for many flower crops. With some flower crops (e.g. bulbs) the farm-gate price has actually decreased over the last few years!
“What about the seasonal variation in prices?”
The increased supply of many flowers from overseas has resulted in a buyer’s market. There are no significant seasonal shortfalls. As a result, there is little fluctuation in price through the year.
“But can’t I really make money when supply is down, like during winter?”
There are limited periods when flower prices might rise temporarily. Sometimes during the height of winter supply can be reduced and prices go up. But to keep your production up, you might need costly heating, which eats into your profits.
And during our winter months, exporters in the Northern Hemisphere (in their high-production summer months) can often undercut local growers.
“Where can I sell my flowers?”
Markets vary from local, State, Interstate and Export.
Growers may supply direct to florists, to wholesalers, or directly through the Adelaide Flower Market (351 South Road, Mile End South).
Most flower lines are periodically oversupplied. As a result of such a competitive market, growers require capital, commitment and good horticultural, business management and marketing skills to be reasonably successful.
New growers cannot assume that it will be easy to sell their flowers, particularly for prices they would like.
“Can I just turn up to a florist shop to sell my flowers?”
New growers shouldn’t expect to turn up at a florist shop with their produce and make a sale. Florists are professionals, know their market and plan their buying accordingly. They demand high quality flowers, and a guaranteed regular supply!
“Is SAFGA trying to discourage new growers?”
SAFGA is here to help ALL flower growers, both new and established.
Part of the service includes providing accurate overall industry assessments. So we try to keep current growers informed on the current market situation. And we advise potential new growers that to improve their chance of success they would need access to substantial quantities of cash, or a loan of substantial size.
Returns from flower growing are often problematical: an estimated 85% of new small growers are out of business in less than 2 years. We see it as our responsibility to try and make new growers aware of what is involved, so as to avoid any nasty surprises down the track.
All new growers prepared to commit to flower growing as a profession are welcomed by professional flower growing groups like SAFGA and the Australian Flora and Protea Growers Association (AFPGA).
“Now that I’m ready to commit, do I need a licence to be a grower?”
No, you don’t need a specific licence to be a flower grower. However, you would need a permit to pick wild stands of native flowers. (There is very little “bush picking” in South Australia).
To use certain pesticides a Farm Chemical Users Certificate is required, and is strongly recommended for all intending growers and horticulturists. SAFGA can generally advise you of the next available course dates.
Section III: New Grower References and Check-list
Before establishing a plantation, prospective growers should:
- be sure of an adequate, clean water supply,
- take advice on the suitability of the soil,
- understand the elements of floriculture
- become familiar with what the market wants,
- have some idea where they will sell their produce and how they will get it there,
- make sure of adequate wind protection,
- find out what to do about the pests that will multiply as a result of their activity,
- budget for expensive gear like tractors and implements, hydraulic gear, sheds, etc.
New growers need to consult floriculture professionals about how to establish their new business and on marketing and production.
Consultation with an accountant may be necessary – new growers may need to budget for a loss for at least the first five years.
PO Box 6014, Halifax Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: (08) 8558 8325
122 Frome Street
PO Box 6014, Halifax Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: (08) 8232 5555
c/- Post Office
KERSBROOK SA 5231
Phone: (08) 8389 3057
SA Research and Development Institute
Plant Research Centre
Gate 2b Hartley Grove
Urrbrae SA 5064
GPO Box 397 Adelaide SA 5000
Primary Industries and Resources SA
Horticulture Consultant - Floriculture
Lenswood Horticultural Centre
Lenswood SA 5240
Phone: (08) 8389 8800
Executive Chair (2000-2001),
Cut Flower Commodity Section,
South Australian Farmers Federation.