Covid 19 – What it means for growers around the world
No doubt “Covid 19” conjures up a lot of thoughts and feelings for everyone as we now enter Day 1 of formal lockdown. The emotion of not seeing family for who knows how long; not being able to give that bunch of flowers on Mothering Sunday or not celebrating your birthday or wedding being just some. The challenges we face could be home schooling your children while trying to work from home, we’ve all seen the videos, we know how this is going to go… Day 1 and Joe Wicks seems to have entertained 800,000 subscribers, let alone the multiple children watching - it could be over 2 million, I wonder how many this will be on day 18?
We know our supermarket supply chains can cope if we just let them. While it’s marginally funny that hashtags such as #buyflowersnottoiletroll are a thing now, there is a serious underlying message for everyone.
First a thought to our Dutch growers. For the past week they have only been allowed to deliver 30% of their usual daily volume. What’s happening to the rest of their cut flower crop? Entire crops are being mulched in greenhouses across the country in desperate attempts to save costs. There is only so much PGR you can apply to slow the growth of pot plant crops until they go a similar way. What makes it to the auctions and isn’t sold is thrown away, because the demand just is not there. People are just too busy buying toilet roll and pasta.
But the UK horticulture industry is facing a new challenge, workers. No flights arriving means flowers (and a lot of fruit and veg crops) just aren’t going to get picked or planted. What’s going to happen to them? A huge amount of challenges no doubt, just around the corner.
While watching videos of lilies being mulched into nothing is a sad sight, it’s the Kenyans that are really going to suffer. If the flights aren’t arriving, the crops can’t leave. What happens when the roses don’t leave? They sit on the tarmac at Nairobi airport, rotting. If one flower farm lays off 5,000 staff, that’s 50,000 people affected because it’s estimated that each flower farm worker supports 10 people from their employment. It doesn’t take long to realise that thousands of Kenyans are on the cusp of even more troubling times than we are.
We have the NHS, while it may be stretched, we have it. Our government is supporting us as best they can, and we hope that extends to the horticulture industry and soon. We all lived through the recession in 2008 but we are at serious risk of 2020 being even worse.
I’m embarrassed to say I stockpiled this morning in the supermarket, I bought four bunches of daffodils instead of my usual two and I know I’ll be back to buy more in a couple of days because I still can’t get any flour despite trying for two weeks. Lockdown is serious, but so is mental wellbeing and that extends to making cakes for friends and family, even if I only deliver them to the doorstep on my "once a day outdoor exercise".
As Syngenta Ornamentals, we want to reiterate that we are still here for our customers if you need us. Drop us an email, find us on social media. We're still here to answer your questions on your crops. If you make it to the supermarket, buy some daffodils, buy some tulips or roses for yourself, your neighbour or a friend (while delivering them at a distance of two meters). Not only will they brighten up your day and someone else’s, we’re showing the supply chain that the demand is not only for toilet roll and flour, but also for flowers.