Can Nepal be self-reliant on flowers?

Tihar, the festival of lights and flowers, is incomplete without sayapatri (marigold), makhamali (globe amaranth), and godavari (chrysanthemum). Although Nepalis use a significant amount of flowers throughout the year, the demand is high especially during Tihar, but domestic production has been unable to meet demand, even in off-peak months.

The Floriculture Association of Nepal (FAN), an NGO that studies the flower market, helps farmers and florists. It suggests that around 1.85 million garlands (usually a meter long) will be sold in the market this Tihar. Of them, around 1.5 million will be sayapatri, 0.3 million makhamali, and the remaining are godavari.

Last year, due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the domestic production of commercial flowers was significantly low, and so was the demand, but things are different this time. The demand for flowers is estimated to have gone up by 15% over the previous two years, and it is believed that around 15% of total demand will be met by imported flowers.

Nepali production could have met 90% of the total demand, but the recent unseasonal incessant rain destroyed matured flowers that were almost ready to be harvested for Tihar. “The Covid-19 pandemic has also heavily affected production,” says Biswomani Pokharel, general secretary of FAN. 

Due to the risk of coronavirus, farmers did not invest as much in flowers as in previous years, which has led to a further decline in production, but the demand has increased. “The planting time was from February to August, the time when we experienced the deadly second wave, so the farmers didn’t take the risk,” he adds.

Prices are expected to rise this year as demand is high and more flowers have to be imported from elsewhere than the previous year. The price of one garland is expected to hover around Rs 80 to 100, whereas it was Rs. 60 to 70 last year.

The flower business, which had been losing Rs 10 million daily due to the Covid-19 pandemic for a long time, is now churning out business worth around Rs 7 million a day. Every year, August to March is the busiest season for the market as flowers are in high demand during the wedding season.

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