Paeony spectacle may be lost
Fields of paeonies basking in the summer sunshine near Mataura may soon become just a memory.
Lyn and Trevor Newton say a change of lifestyle, escalating export compliance costs and increased trade at their slink skin business has prompted them to sell many of their tubers and plants and put their commercial block on the market.
Lyn Newton said the couple, who farm 800 acres at Waikana, bought the four acre block 15 years ago to diversify, with the aim of growing crops.
After much research, they planted 2500 paeonies with the aim of exporting the flowers once the plants were established.
For the next five years they exported commercially to the United States until compliance costs made it uneconomical.
‘‘Someone [another exporter] got caught with light brown apple moth in a flower going into the US so we went from absolutely no compliance to a very, very strict spraying programme and it cost $1200 to comply to get into the the US per year’’.
They continued to export for ‘‘a few years’’ under that system but continued to grow their local trade at the same time and eventually stopped exporting three years ago.
‘‘Now we work with local florists and do 21sts, weddings and funeral flowers. We’ve changed more to the local market.’’
‘‘Our overall direction is changing a bit. There’s still money in paeonies but our kids are trying to make us slow down and spend more time on the rugby sidelines.’’
The business was only labour intensive for about six weeks from Labour Weekend and then again for about a week in autumn when the plants were cut back.
They had sold plants to other growers and reduced plant numbers to about 1700, so their loyal client base will still be able to ‘‘get their fix’’ this year.
‘‘I would say I’ll still be picking this season.’’
‘‘We’ve had a great response locally – we have a loyal client base that come back every year.’’
Days are numbered: Lyn and Trevor Newton have downsized their paeony business at Mataura and put the commercial block on the market.