Provided by Union Fleurs – International Flower Trade Association (www.unionfleurs.org)
The international flower supply chain has been intensely focused on preparing for Mother’s Day, which takes place on 10 May in most destination markets (USA and most of mainland Europe). Prospects on the demand side are quite positive thanks to the reopening of most flower sales channels; producing countries are ready to supply, but airfreight rates and shipping capacity have remained a challenge for the major exporting countries (Kenya, Colombia), which continue to experience major bottlenecks for their links to destination markets. Mother’s Day is the last large flower-related celebration in spring, before the start of the low season for the cut flower market. Only Poland (celebrating Mother’s Day on 26 May) and France (7 June) will keep raising demand a little on the European market. Prospects for the market afterwards are still rather uncertain, and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the flower industry is expected to continue to unfold.
At the end of April, Kenya sent over 300 bouquets to the UK in a show of solidarity with a country that remains its prime floriculture market amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The flowers have been distributed to the NHS frontline combating the pandemic, including doctors, nurses, recovering patients and care homes. The initiative is part of the “Flowers of Hope” campaign in Kenya, and stems from a committee set up by President Uhuru Kenyatta that has brought together the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Kenya Airways and the Kenya Flower Council. A goodwill message from President Kenyatta was displayed on the flower sleeves, reading: “There have been a few moments in history when the world has faced a crisis as far-reaching and consequential as this. It is exactly at moments such as this that we must display our humanity, perseverance and hope. Whatever the adversity, no matter the foe, we shall triumph together. We stand united. Tuko Pamoja. From Kenya with love – HE Uhuru Kenyatta.”
The Ethiopian Horticulture Producer-Exporters Association (EHPEA) has recently reported a loss of about US$25 million within the horticultural sector since the outbreak of COVID-19 (FBC, 4 May). Tewodros Zewdie, Director of EHPEA, says the high season for this year’s flower exports has been severely affected and that continuous efforts are being made to minimise the impact and to retain employees.
Royal FloraHolland has recently presented its Annual Report for 2019 and announced that it expects losses of several million in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis (Hortipoint, 1 May). While the continuity of the auctions is not compromised, they are preparing for a market contraction and overall reduced demand for flowers in direct correlation with the economic recession forecasts.
The Dutch Emergency fund of €600 million to compensate the ornamental sector in the Netherlands, announced on 15 April by Dutch Minister for Agriculture Carola Schouten, is currently being assessed by the European Commission via an urgent procedure. Until final approval by the EU is confirmed, Dutch companies from the sector experiencing more than 30% loss of turnover during the period 12 March to 11 June can start pre-applying to the fund from 7 May. More details can be found on the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).
Commission Implementing Regulation 2020/594 providing exceptional derogation measures from EU competition rules to the flower and plant sector under Article 222 of the CMO Regulation (common organisation of the markets) has entered into force on 5 May and will apply for 6 months. The adoption of this Regulation is an exceptional recognition by the EU Commission of the serious disruptions that have taken place on the market since mid-March. However, it is anticipated that these measures will not bring any significant tangible relief to the needs of the sector.
Sector organisations such as Union Fleurs continue to advocate for more direct financial support by the EU. Expressing their support for the sector’s requests, 50 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), originating from a large number of Member States and from several political groups, sent a joint letter to EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski on 27 April calling for EU support for the flower and live plants sector, which has been dramatically hit by the exceptional crisis. The MEPs urged the Commission to be more ambitious and pragmatic, and to activate as soon as possible tailor-made and urgent financial support for the sector, going beyond the measures put forward by the European Commission which are not sufficient to keep the sector afloat.
“As Members of the European Parliament, we consider it the duty of the European Commission to not abandon this highly interdependent and high performing European sector and to invest in it as soon as possible to offer it a lifeline” says the letter, while recalling that the sector sustains 760,000 jobs across the EU and contributes annually to the EU economy with a total turnover of €48 billion.
Kenya’s Daily Nation (1 May) reports that there is “Nothing to celebrate” for thousands of Kenyans on Labour Day. A report from the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection indicates the virus has already rendered at least 133,657 Kenyans jobless. Companies began sending employees home in March, days after the first coronavirus case was reported in Kenya, while most of them have joined this month. Firms in the flowers, tea, hotels, tourism, aviation and transport sectors were the first to take action. So far, workers in the flower farms have been the hardest hit, where about 80,000 have either been sacked or are currently on unpaid leave.
In a gesture of solidarity, on 28 April Kenya Airways carried 300 bouquets of flowers to London to show empathy amid the coronavirus pandemic that has caused over 20,000 deaths in the UK, as part of a ‘Flowers of Hope’ campaign supported by Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) members, Kenya Flower Council (KFC) and others. The bouquets are being distributed to frontline health staff, recovering patients and care homes in the UK.
Royal FloraHolland’s country update (4 May) describes the Netherlands’ ongoing preparations for a Horticultural Emergency Fund; and cites legal advice from a Dutch law firm that “if a Dutch trader purchases from a grower, he must do two things. Buy and pay.” Dutch multinational Rabobank predicts that it will take 4–5 years for the industry to return to its 2019 level. In addition, sustainability targets (such as the Paris Climate Accord) in indoor horticulture may be more difficult to achieve due to the lack of funding (for geothermal heat, for example).
The FNPHP, the association of French ornamental plant breeders, has proposed to the government a support and recovery plan for French horticulture. “Following the disappointing announcements made by the European Commission on 22 April, which does not provide any financial support to the horticultural sector, it is up to the French Government to assume its responsibility to save the agricultural sector.”
The Italian florists’ federation Federfiori suggests celebrating Mother’s Day in Italy not only on Sunday 10 May, but for one week from 4 to 10 May. This would avoid long queues in front of florists’ shops and crowding in the shops – and give Italians every opportunity to buy flowers and plants.