"If we weren't allowed to open on Mother's Day, we would all be telling a different story", says Karen Kelly, of House of Flowers, a florist shop in Bedfordview, South Africa. According to her, the lockdown the country went into on March 26, heavily impacted the industry. Fortunately, growers could apply for a permit to continue growing and cutting during the lockdown and on May 1st, a gradual and phased easing of the lockdown restrictions began and florists could start trading again. However, all is still far from normal, there is a lack of production and product, prices are high and situation regarding weddings and functions is still uncertain. "Also, funerals are limited to 50 people so that is also not a lavish affair", she adds.
Picture of the flowers in the House of Flowers shop.
Mother's Day: Surprising good
During the lockdown, the floral trade almost came to a standstill, as they were only allowed to supply flowers for funerals. For nearly two months, there was almost no business. Therefore, Karen was relieved when the president announced to ease the restrictions from May 1st. "It was just in time for Mother's day for which we could finally able to supply flowers. And locally grown flowers only as our air space was closed for trade for the normal course of business." So how was Mother's Day? "It was a surprisingly good day. I first thought that we had to start all over, even though we are in business for 15 years. But it seemed that no-one forgot the flowers for this special day. It lifted the entire ornamental industry in South Africa. If we did not have had such a good Mother's day, we would all be telling a different and more negative story. It helped to get the industry back on their feet "
Lack of product
During the lockdown, Karen Kelly's husband, David Kelly, and owner of Quality Blooms, a flower wholesaler, did everything possible to let their growers continue. After a lot of efforts, he achieved to offer the growers the opportunity to apply for a permit to continue growing and cutting. However, the supply is dropping, Karen explains the reasons way: "Locally, we see a lot of growers have not planted new crops or have reduced their numbers. As per the rest of the world, Chrysanthemum cuttings were not readily available, hence the shortage of supply and the very high price. Others had decided not to heat their greenhouses as they can no longer afford this extra expense, coal being very expensive, and some have even stopped production completely for the time being. On top of this, the colder temperatures have and will slow down production even more. Internationally, there is less product being imported as costs to import a product are very high, mainly due to the increase in Freight Cargo Rates."
This combined results in an uncertain situation which creates large supply issues in the coming two months.
Despite uncertainty, staying positive
The coming months will be uncertain months for the floral industry in South Africa. However, it all depends on how the COVID-19 situation will develop and if the country has to go into another lockdown. "Last week, for example, it was still unsure if the country will go in another lockdown and we immediately saw it in the flower orders." However, Karen is positive about the future. "I'm very glad that we've had a good Mother's Day and glad to see that people are coming back for flowers to brighten up their homes. And as everyone is expected to go back to the office in March 2021, it is expected to continue for some time. Also the weddings season is still uncertain, but it will all depend on how COVID-19 will spread.