Millions of flowers wasted during coronavirus pandemic

Millions of cut flower stems have gone to waste because of the coronavirus pandemic – costing the sector over a billion US dollars.

The comments, made by Rabobank fresh produce analyst Lambert van Horen, highlight the huge impact the pandemic has had on floristry businesses across the world.

"In the Netherlands alone, we estimate the damage of the cut flower business is approximately 400–500 million euros [$660 million to $825 million] … in Kenya and Ethiopia it will be 200–300 million euros," Lambert said.

"At first, the sale of roses dropped by 80 per cent and a lot of workers on the flower farms were sacked because there wasn't any work anymore."

It’s not all bad news, however. According to a news report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), coronavirus could lead to a lasting shift in global cut flower supply – with local growers seeing business bloom.

While major overseas exporters were struggling to sell their flowers, the tide was changing for flower growers in Australia, the article said – partly due to import restrictions putting a hold on Australia’s usual A$75 million worth of annual flower shipments from overseas and partly because Australians are turning to local products.

General manager of Brisbane's Redlands Farms, Jatinder Nijjar, told ABC that Queensland's flower industry had shrunk from 200 growers to just 10 because of cheap overseas imports.

"But now, because of this pandemic, and the change in supply and demand, Australians are going direct to local growers again," he said. "I am going to be putting in more roses to meet the demand over the next six months and I am looking to plant around 15,000 [rose bushes].

"People are wanting more and more local products. People are loving local products and they're wanting to support their local grower," he said.

The growth of local production comes as a welcome boost to florists who were frequently selling out of stock and struggling to keep up with demand at a time when more Australians are buying flowers for loved ones during uncertain and stressful times, ABC added.