COVID-19 updates from around the world

The global market is still heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting government measures. In this article, we provide an overview of what's currently going on.

Belgium
In the Agriculture Council on Wednesday 25 March, Belgium will support the Netherlands in the distress call about the floriculture (and potato processing) sector, Royal FloraHolland has learned.

Colombia
Colombia will start its lock down from Wednesday 25 March to Monday 13 April. National flower exporters have cancelled more than half of the sales scheduled for the rest of the second quarter, reports Royal FloraHolland. The sector reports an 80% decline in firm orders on international markets. The cancellation of orders from the United States, which represent 80% of the total turnover of the sector, is causing great concern among flower growers. One of the main challenges facing the sector is maintaining employment (around 140,000 people).

Europe
The ornamental sector (cut flowers and ornamental plants, trees and bulbs) is undoubtedly the agriculture sector impacted the most by the exceptional crisis derived from COVID-19, suffering since mid-March a dramatic and direct collapse of demand and consumption in most EU Member States and at international level with the large-range closure of all shops, drop out of sales channels and distribution disruption. The ‘domino’ effect that has ensued in the past 2 weeks on the overall supply-chain is bringing the whole sector to the brink of a total collapse across the EU and beyond, with immense ramifications in terms of bankruptcy of businesses and related employment across the supply-chain (production, wholesale, trade, distribution channels and retail shops). This crisis could not have come at a worst time of the year as Spring (March to May) is the period when most of the turnover is being realised within the sector. These highly perishable and seasonal products rely on a natural plant cycle that cannot be interrupted during the ongoing crisis; this is now triggering the inevitable destruction of production and stocks to a massive scale across the EU and beyond. Union Fleurs calls on the European Commission and all EU Member States to give a special attention to this sector and help identify and activate support mechanisms.

India
Along the roadside, in Athiyuthu, cows and calves were seen feeding on freshly plucked flowers, discarded by the floriculturists of the village. One Chelladurai, a Kuthapanchan floriculturist, told TNIE that he had fed his cow the marigold flowers he had cultivated, as the flower markets were shut, following the 21-day nation-wide lockdown that came to into effect beginning Tuesday midnight. So was the state of several floriculturists in places like Athiyuthu, Melapavur and Surandai. As the markets were shut and flower export to Kerala prohibited, the farmers threw the flowers away on the roadsides or fed cattle the yield of their months of toil.

Israel
Most garden or indoor plants are sold in Israel: 70% of the flowers are exported. The local market has almost come to a standstill because of the corona regulations of the authorities. The flower exports that are carried on passenger flights to Europe have stopped, which are continued on cargo flights. Some growers of the flowers have already finished the season, for them it is a top season, for others the season starts next week. In Israel, there is only one large retail chain that delivers flowers everywhere, Zer4u. This one is still open for business, except that there are some local florists who still sell online. There are also some growers who have taken an initiative and started selling flowers themselves. Royal FloraHolland expects sales to increase before the Jewish feast Pesach (8 April), because usually just before the holidays there is the most demand.

Kenya
Clement Tulezi, the director of the Kenya Flower Council, told AFP the country's 170 horticultural farms are running seriously low on cash. "We are cash-strapped. We are losing over 250 million shillings ($2.3 million, 2.1 million euros) a day," he said. "People in Europe have two immediate needs: that is food and their own safety in terms of health. The rest are luxuries. And so they are looking at flowers as luxury." He said bans on social gatherings like weddings or funerals have also contributed to a fall in demand.

From Wednesday March 25th midnight Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is closed: cargo flights will continue. The atmosphere is getting grimmer. Flights to Tanzania are almost all full and how long they stay is not certain, the Dutch flower auction reports.

Poland
The horticultural sector in Poland is facing difficulties due to the Corona crisis. In their struggle with the market they identified several important fields and are starting to look ahead. Polish municipalities remain an important customer for the producers of ornamental plants. Considering the current situation producers hope that the orders for the government will help them survive the situation. However some officials have already closed green procurement due to the fact that they are afraid of getting less/no money for maintenance of new investments next year. Read more forecasts from the Polish industry at www.agroberichtenbuitenland.nl.

From Wednesday 25 March onwards, stricter measures will apply to combat the Corona, at least until 11 April (Easter weekend). The motto is stay at home. People are only allowed to leave the house for necessary reasons such as shopping, for crucial work, letting the dog out and taking a walk and with a maximum of 2 people or in a family context. The mandatory 14 days quarantine when people with Polish nationality return remains in place, which is one of the obstacles in labour problems, according to Royal FloraHolland. Despite requests from retailers, the government has decided that the Sunday closing of shops will remain intact. Two supermarkets (Lidl and Biedronka) have then decided to change their policy: in the morning the shop is opened for senior citizens and in the afternoon the shops are closed for one hour to completely clean the shop.

Spain
There is a proposal to extend the alarm status in Spain by 15 days until 11 April. Workers who are going to carry out necessary work, such as working in the fields, will be allowed to drive a car in pairs. In doing so, the workers must be seated diagonally in the car. The Minister for Transport has made it clear that a lorry cab, which transports essential goods, may also seat two people, if this is necessary for the work. The Dutch auction shares that the Spanish flower and plant sector reports major damage as a result of drastically reduced sales. The distribution centres, markets and shops for flowers and plants are closed. The region of Murcia reports a daily damage of € 450,000. No problems are reported with the import and export of agricultural products through the Spanish land borders. A (passport) check still takes place at the border. There are restrictions for persons who want to enter Spain: the entry of labour migrants is not possible.

United Kingdom
As the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continue to evolve for the horticulture industry, Perennial is urging anyone who is worried or has questions about how it will affect them, or their family, to get in touch. The team’s clear message is ‘we’re in this together’ and wants everyone in the industry to know they are here to support you. Find out more about what they can do here.

United States
Spring crops are planted. Trucks and planes are still moving — on modified schedules. But with states and municipalities strengthening social distancing measures and government-mandated business and school closures, demand for cut flowers has plummeted — and that reality is straining the supply chain. Those insights — along with resources and workarounds to help florists get the flowers they need — emerged March 23 during “Sourcing Fresh Product — The New Normal,” the fourth webinar session in the Society of American Florists’ new series on COVID-19. Find out more here.

Florists Supply reports more flowers are available than needed causing product pricing to decline. Unfortunately, this is counterbalanced by the rising cost of freight caused by dropping volumes for most importers, and the lower availability of freight in the airline industry. The Canadian dollar has also weakened versus the US dollar by approximately nine percent. Product availability is changing on a regular basis. Sourcing from South America, Canada, Florida, and The Netherlands (if air freight is available) remain unaffected. California, New Zealand, Italy, and Asia (orchids) are experiencing disruptions.

At least 17 U.S. states have issued stay-at-home orders or at least a partial shutdown of all businesses except for those considered essential, such as groceries, gas stations and pharmacies. Three of the most populous states — California, New York and Illinois — are among them. And that’s bad news for Florida’s horticulture industry, whose business involves growing plants and spices rather than traditional farm crops such as corn or wheat. “You have plants ready. They have to go out, they are sold already or grown to their right size,” Jim Stribling, who runs the Redland Fruit & Spice Park in Homestead and has spent more than 30 years in South Florida horticulture, told McClatchy DC. “A blooming orchid right after Mother’s Day is not worth anything.” 

Amazon is postponing the sale of non-essential goods for at least another month. This means that tens of millions of products sold to consumers in the U.S. and Europe will not be available online until the end of April. Trucker companies indicate that, as a result of the large number of people staying at home, the transport of food by (highways) is going well, Royal FloraHolland has learned. Air traffic, on the other hand, is a different story. There is a lot of commercial transport with passenger planes, including from Europe. Now that 85% of them have disappeared, air freight has become very expensive.

China
Fortunately, the flower industry in China is picking up and these current developments may give hope to the rest of the world. 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", Armada China's Ma Savio told FloralDaily last week.


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