Vegetable seed firm defies credit crunch

IT might not be the now infamous “green shoots of recovery”, but a Suffolk seed firm has defied the recession by posting a healthy profit rise.

Laurence Cawley

IT might not be the now infamous “green shoots of recovery”, but a Suffolk seed firm has defied the recession by posting a healthy profit rise.

Staff at DT Brown, which sells a range of seeds by mail order, said the 35% increase was largely due to people growing their own food either at home or on an allotment.

Tim Jeffries, general manager of the Newmarket firm, said vegetable seeds were now in great demand.

“It is a trend that has been there for a few years now,” he said.

“People are growing their own - but whether this is partly down to the credit crunch or simply because people want to know where their food came from I'm not sure.”

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The company's success comes after Business Minister Baroness Vadera was ridiculed for claiming she had spotted the first “green shoots of recovery” just days before it was officially announced the UK was in a recession.

Mr Jeffries added: “No business is recession proof. Things could be worse and they could be better, of course, but vegetable seeds are showing healthy signs.”

DT Brown, whose vegetable seed range runs from artichokes to turnips, sells about 500,000 vegetable seed packets each year.

“It is a lot, but not when compared nationally,” said Mr Jeffries. “We are not currently pushed to keep with demand, though at the moment there are very good signs for the future.”

Jane Hird, of the Walsham Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Association in Walsham-le-Willows, near Bury St Edmunds, said she was not surprised about the increasing demand for seeds.

She told how her association was only set up four years ago and now has 21 plots tended to by young families, children and the elderly.

“It is a measure of the increased interest people have in allotments. We are learning pretty much as we go along. It is mainly young families though we do have a few older people which is really useful because they can give us advice.

“We are doing this because of the benefits to health although money could become a greater factor as the credit crunch gets worse.

“We are getting lots of villages contacting us and asking how and where we got our land from because they've got people wanting an allotment.”

In Bury St Edmunds, budding allotment holders currently face a two year wait to get a place on the 110-plot Cotton Lane site.

Bury St Edmunds Town Council, which took on the running of allotments from St Edmundsbury Borough Council in 2006, said its list for allotment places had increased from 30 people in 2006 to 148 people at the moment.

Town council chairman Richard Rout said: “People are getting more and more interested in organic produce, which helps the environment by reducing food miles. The demand for plots is very high and we are looking for more land to meet that land.”