Greenhouses dot the landscape as far as the eye can see on the way into the small town of Honselersdijk. This is flower growing country. Flower and plant exporter Flowerportal is just one of the many exporters attached to the Royal FloraHolland auction here, and normally at this time of year, it’s a hive of activity as trucks are being loaded with freshly cut flowers purchased in the morning and shipped out to the East by afternoon. But on this Wednesday, about one week into the war in Ukraine, the loading dock is empty and the parking lot is eerily quiet. Westland has been dubbed ‘Wasteland’ by many who work here. And the loading dock is not the only thing that’s empty.
Warehouse ‘This is where we keep the flowers,’ Christina van der Voort, director of Flowerportal, says while walking through the company’s cavernous warehouse. ‘This should be full. But now you see only empty buckets. Just a few days ago, we didn’t have space to walk. Now, you can see how much space there is.’ Many of the flowers that remain are orchids, tulips and chrysanthemums that have returned after her trucks did an about-face in Poland when war broke out.
Flowerportal does 90% of its business with Eastern European countries—including Russia and Ukraine. And most of that business comes in the few weeks between Valentine’s Day on February 14 and International Women’s Day on March 8.
‘This holiday exists from the Soviet times. It’s a beautiful day,’ says Van der Voort. ‘All women should get flowers. It’s even more popular than Valentine’s Day. Without this day, East Europe would never be such a big market’ Christina van der Voort. During this high season, Van der Voort sells some 2-3 million stems—10 times more flowers per day than at any other time. But ever since the war broke out, she can’t fulfill her orders.
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