Tulip growers are hanging up the gloves

Tulip growers are hanging up the gloves

After nearly 70 years of brightening the country, a family running a tulip business in Southland is taking the time to stop and smell the roses.

The 25-hectare plot of land belonging to Van Eeden Tulips, a tulip growing company in Southland, will no longer be bathed in the colors of 80 different varieties.

This business has been in operation for 68 years and has been passed down between two generations in New Zealand.

Before that, the family had been in the tulip business for six more generations in the Netherlands.

Leaving that legacy behind was bittersweet,” said production manager John Van Eeden.

“It’s a big job and requires long hours and sometimes a lot of stress.

“On the other hand, now that you’ve stopped, you miss everyday life.”

Van Eeden, one of five brothers who own the company, said the decision was made after two of the five began setting their sights on retirement.

Van Eeden said he will continue to trade tulips, offering his expertise to anyone who wants it – including contracts he has secured in China.

His parents emigrated from the Netherlands to New Zealand in 1952, setting up a “very primitive” business in Invercargill.

He said their family’s reputation grew, as they were one of the first companies to supply bulbs and flowers throughout New Zealand, and were known for their quality.

In the late 1990s, the business branched out into off-season exports to the Northern Hemisphere, which has become its main focus over the past 22 years.

Van Eeden said there was huge demand from China, the United States, Poland and Scandinavia for Southern Hemisphere lamps in the off-season.

Although it was the smallest of the five major Southland companies exporting its products overseas, it was the only company still supplying its products to the local market, Van Eeden said.

While he did not believe their company’s departure would make a significant impact on the international market, which was “quite booming”, the effects were already being felt at home.

“Now that we’re gone, I think there’s a big gap in the market that we’ve left behind, because export growers aren’t really interested in the domestic market.

“There are still sales in the local market, but the number of varieties is much smaller, and they are also more expensive.”

He added that other players are stepping forward and a few small farmers across the country are taking up the task.

Van Eeden said it was rewarding to work in an industry that is all about brightening people’s days.

He expressed his gratitude to all their local customers and long-time customers, some of whom have been with them for 40 years, and said it was hard to walk away.

tim.scott@odt.co.nz

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