Flower exports may not bloom by Valentine’s Day

Lockdowns and restrictions that still exist in certain key markets have dampened sentiments of the market

Pandemic-hit Karnataka’s flower exports will take some time to recover, while the domestic market is limping back to normalcy after COVID-19 brought the floriculture sector to a complete halt from April to September.

Though some growers have slowly started exports from October, infrequent flights and high freight charges have made exports unviable. Also, lockdowns and restrictions that still exist in certain key markets have further dampened the sentiments of the market, according to International Flower Auction Bangalore (IFAB), a common platform for flower growers and buyers that follows the Dutch system of auctions. Karnataka exports cut flowers to places such as Japan, the Middle East, Singapore, Russia, Australia, U.K., New Zealand, Taiwan, Holland, Germany, Spain, and China.

M. Vishwanath, Managing Director, IFAB, told The Hindu: “We don’t see our exports market recovering even during Valentine’s season this year as both logistics and customer markets are yet to be ready after the pandemic.” According to him, the flower market was virtually closed down for six months as customers “did not even want to touch flowers”. As a result, farmers who grew carnations, gerbera, roses, and other varieties started disbudding to stop flowering.

Also, whoever was at the end of crop years (roses yield for five years, gerbera 2/3 years, and carnations 2 years) removed the crops to cut cost, while some others abandoned their farms unable to manage without income. Some also repurposed their polyhouses to grow capsicum, cucumber, greens, and other vegetables, and now are slowly switching back to floriculture. It costs ₹2 lakh per annum to maintain a hectare of polyhouse farming, said Mr. Vishwanath, who is also Joint Director, State Horticulture Department.

“We saw roses and other flowers being sold at ₹2 or ₹2.5 per stem, mostly below the cost of production, when we resumed operations of IFAB on May 7. But, we got good price in October, November and part of December thanks to marriage and festival seasons. Some 300 flower growers sell their produce on our platform,” he said. Roses, on an average, can fetch ₹5 to ₹16 per stem depending on the demand in the domestic market, while a stem of rose can fetch up to ₹20 to ₹25 in the export market.

Karnataka has 18,000 hectares under floriculture cultivation, (more than 80% of it is open cultivation and the remaining is polyhouse farming), accounting for 14% of India’s total area under flower production, 20% loose and 13% cut flower production.

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