In South Korea, February-March is traditionally regarded as the peak and busiest season for flower growers and shops, as graduation and admission ceremonies of elementary and secondary schools and universities are successively scheduled for the month.
Flowers are the most popular gift for all those celebrating their last or first days at schools.
But a growing number of schools have chosen to cancel or scale down their February or March events to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus, dealing a disastrous blow to flower farmers and merchants.
A floriculturist, surnamed Tak, who has grown roses for about 40 years at seven greenhouses on his 4,290-square-meter farm in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, said he has suffered enormous losses from the coronavirus outbreak.
Tak said he sent 50 bunches of roses (one bunch contains 10 roses) to the Yangjae Flower Market earlier this week, but only five bunches were sold, with the remaining flowers discarded.
“In previous years, one bunch of roses sold for 10,000 won (US$8.40) to 12,000 won. These days, they sell for just 4,000 won. Since last November, I’ve spent over 20 million won on heating the greenhouses but now have no way to recover the expenses,” said the 66-year-old Tak, expressing hope for a quick end to the virus crisis.
Kang Jae-hee, a rose farmer of 22 years in Miryang, near Busan, said he recently scrapped 1,500 bunches of roses to help control the flower supply in the regional market.
“I have grown flowers at huge heating expenses, aiming for this year’s graduation and admission season. But I have never experienced a situation like this over the past two decades,” said Kang, asking for special measures from the government.