Will there be light at the end of the tunnel? It is a major question asked during this COVID-19 crisis, but the current developments in China may give hope. Also for the ornamental industry. Flower markets are being opened in more and more cities and the number of visitors there are increasing day by day. Spring seems to have a positive influence and with an important flower giving day, May 20, coming up, expectations are positive. And this is visible in the numbers. Armada China, for example, who supplies cuttings (mainly cut chrysanthemums) all over the country sees an increase in orders for the coming months. "Our orders are at about 80 percent of what they were last year during this time of the year", says Armada China's Ma Savio.
Ida Zhang, Savio Ma and Gerard Lentjes of Armada. In 2018, they established Armada China in Shanghai and they were exhibiting for the first time at the IPM Hortiflorexpo in Shanghai in 2019.
During the last months, the COVID-19 outbreak in China created chaos in the country. After the severe measures that have been taken to control the virus, many industries, including the ornamental, came to a standstill. "At our partner in Kunming, who grows the cuttings for us, mainly focussed on maintaining the mother plants. In this way, they anticipated on coming back in business quickly when needed."
Demand picking up
Fortunately, the severe measures had an effect as the number of infections have come down. Many businesses have reopened and the demand for flowers is picking up. "Since the beginning of March, the borders opened - except for Wuhan - which enabled flower markets to open their doors too. Many are now still relying on online buying, but the number of visitors to these markets is increasing as well", Savio says. An important reason for the demand picking up seems Spring as this time of the year is usually stimulating flower sales. And at Armada, they are already noticing it. "For the coming three months, our orders are at about 80 percent of what they were last year during this time."
Armada's growers are recovering
Armada supplies large growers all over China and according to Savio, they are recovering quite quickly. "February was a tough month for them, but fortunately all of our clients were able to keep their heads above water - also due to governmental support several received. And they are looking forward to the coming months."
Even though sales are on track for Armada China, there are still challenges to overcome. "We receive cuttings in two different ways; grown by our partner in Kunming and imported out of Africa", explains Savio. And this latter way is still a challenge. "Currently many flights are cancelled. There are still some flights from Paris to Kunming, but flight capacity is an issue then. Fortunately so far, we can still fulfill all orders with the production of our partner in Kunming", he says.
Savio has good hopes for the industry for the coming weeks. "Besides Spring, which is a good month for flower sales, in May, another important flower giving day will be celebrated, namely May 20. When pronouncing this date in Chinese, it sounds like "I love you", and after such a hectic period, we expect a lot of men to give a flower to their girlfriend or loved ones. Also in this period, the wedding season is expected to pick up again and this means higher sales of flowers as well."
Good hopes for the rest of the world
The situation Europe is in, is more or less comparable to our situation last month. This shows the developments here gives good hopes for the rest of the world and the industry. Growers need to hang on a little longer. Hopefully government support can help their business survive as better times will come."