Lockdowns and market closures meant the worldwide demand for the Dutch famed flowers and bulbs dropped significantly. Dutch growers had to destroy hundreds of millions of tulips, daffodils, and other blossoms or sell them at far cheaper prices than in past years.
“A total of 11.4 billion flowers and plants were traded in the Netherlands in 2020, a decrease of 7.8 percent compared to 2019,” says Michel van Schie, a spokesperson for industry conglomerate Royal FloraHolland. The country’s international export market wilted from 6.235 billion euros (7.583 billion U.S. dollars) in 2019 to 5.974 billion euros (7.266 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020.
Last spring, COVID-19 border closures and lockdowns meant the Netherland’s floral market crashed along with its tourism. Demand plunged from customers like restaurants and hotels as well as for events like weddings. This severely impacted farms, sellers, flower auction houses, and tourism during blooming season, which generally runs from mid-March to early May.
“I had to leave one 5,381-square-foot greenhouse of daffodils to die before destroying them with a machine,” says Klaas van Hage, who runs a flower farm in Noordwijkerhout. Like many growers, Van Hage had to trash about 10 percent of his crop in 2020, shredding it for compost or giving flowers to charity.
A brighter outlook
“Everybody in my region is feeling optimistic this year,” says Caroline Dignum, who owns a tulip, daffodil, and crocus farm. “There’s a great demand for flowers and bulbs, a big difference over last year when everyone felt insecure and unsure about what was happening.”
Some farmers have adjusted their businesses due to the pandemic. Some planted their wares so they could sell fresh tulips instead of importing bulbs. Others, like Klaas van Hage, are now selling more products in the Netherlands to make up for losses in the international market. “We have contracts with major local supermarkets and hardly export our products,” he says. “We are lucky.”
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