Toronto florists are facing a major flower shortage with no end in sight

In 2020, the main concern for florists was a demand problem – with a raging pandemic and less money to go around, flower shops had to survive through a grueling business year. In 2021, the problem is rather the opposite. Facing a surge in demand with the country reopening and weddings quickly piling up, Toronto florists are finding it impossible to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels – and the problem is supply.

“Worrying is like solving an algebra problem by chewing bubblegum,” Sara Jameson says, outlining her philosophy in managing the ongoing flower shortage that has caused so many local florists extreme distress. Jameson, the owner of Sweetpea’s, a flower shop in Roncesvalles, has been in the industry for 11 years and has never encountered a crisis quite like this one.

The primary reason for the shortage cited by most florists is that not enough bulbs were planted for 2021. During the disastrous events of last year, farmers - not just those in the flower industry - disposed of much of their unused product. Predicting that this year would follow suit, they sowed far fewer bulbs in an attempt to avoid composting flowers and produce needlessly, but their predictions were incredibly off-base. Since lockdown measures have eased up, allowing larger gatherings to take place, the need for flowers has grown exponentially. “There’s a lot of demand, and no supply,” Bruno Duarte of Fresh Floral Creations on the Danforth says.

Many of Duarte’s suppliers have farms in Ecuador and Colombia. Imports from both countries have been limited in the past year, but for very different reasons. Despite having the right climate and greenhouse infrastructure when the weather is not cooperating, Ecuadorian farmers fell prey to the supply issues detailed above. Meanwhile, in Colombia, the flowers could not even make it to the airport. A national strike ensued at the end of April in reaction to a tax reform bill proposed by Colombian president Iván Duque earlier this year, which was opposed by 80% of Colombian citizens. Blockades established by local protestors and clashes near the airport in Cali prevented flowers from being shipped.

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