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Soaring Natural Gas Prices Threaten California's Cut Flower Growing Industry.

WATSONVILLE, Calif., Dec. 15 /PRNewswire/ --

The following was issued by California Cut Flower Commission, December 15, 2000:

The sense of urgency for finding a solution to California's continuing energy crisis is very real among the state's 200+ commercial cut flower growers. Some growers are already laying off workers; others are deciding to sacrifice their Valentine's Day holiday crops because they can not afford to heat their greenhouses.

"Some California cut flower growers will be forced to close their greenhouses altogether if relief from soaring natural gas prices is not found -- and soon," warns Lee Murphy, president of the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC), Watsonville, Calif. "Heating bills are reaching $500,000 a month for some growers, as compared to $100,000 a year ago," explains Murphy. "Growers simply can not continue operating with those exorbitant costs. The profit margins in our industry are tight enough as it is, and with nearly a 600 percent increase in heating costs, growers may simply have to close their doors."

The skyrocketing cost for natural gas couldn't come at a worse time for California's cut flower growers-rose growers in particular. December is the month when buds forming on rose plants produce the critical Valentine's Day crop, which accounts for 25 - 30 percent of a rose grower's annual sales.

Growers typically heat greenhouses when temperatures drop below 60 degrees -- a constant occurrence along California's coastline in December and January. The impact of soaring natural gas prices is being felt by cut flower growers up and down the California coast, from Eureka to San Diego.

Some form of government assistance is necessary to help California flower growers through this crisis says Murphy. "The skyrocketing cost of natural gas is equivalent to a major natural disaster for our industry. Without some form of relief the future looks very bleak for California's cut flower industry. Growers typically qualify for relief only when a crop is lost. In this situation, compensation will be desperately needed for crops not brought to harvest for Valentine's Day, and for crops sold far below production costs."

California produces more than 60 percent of all domestically grown fresh cut flowers. It is a $300 million dollar a year industry. Fifteen percent of all fresh cut roses sold in the United States are grown in California, however, the balance comes from off shore, mainly Colombia and Ecuador.

Additional grower contacts:

Kirk DiCicco, Watsonville Nursery, Watsonville, CA 831-724-2487

Bill Young, Aspen Enterprises, Watsonville, CA 831-722-7676

Lou Neve, Neve Roses, Petaluma, CA 707-778-2326

John Furman, California Pajarosa, Watsonville, CA 831-722-6374

Rene Van Windergen, Ocean Breeze International, Carpenteria, CA

805-684-1747

Bob Echter, Dramm & Echter, Encinitas, CA 760-436-0188
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Date:Dec 15, 2000
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