Dutch flower industry continues to wither amid coronavirus

File: Growers are preserving what they can in storage or fields, but the reality is that the majority of this year's cut flower harvest will likely go to waste.

File: Growers are preserving what they can in storage or fields, but the reality is that the majority of this year's cut flower harvest will likely go to waste.

NAALDWIJK, Netherlands - Despite picture-perfect spring weather outside, the Dutch flower industry has continued to wilt amid the coronavirus crisis after suffering a sharp initial shock two weeks ago.

Growers are preserving what they can in storage or fields, but the reality is that the majority of this year's cut flower harvest will likely go to waste.

"The loss is huge," said Michel van Schie of FloraHolland, the world's dominant flower clearing auction.

"At the moment we have only 30 percent of our normal turnover, and ... this is the busiest period of the year."

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Daily sales in March often pass 20 million euros ($22-million), continuing strong into the Easter holiday and Mother's Day in May.

In all, 35 percent of global flower and plant exports, worth 6.2 billion euros a year, pass through the Netherlands, mostly from Dutch growers but also from African and Latin American farms.

Several Dutch tulip growers have started initiatives to get rid of extra stock, organising drive-by sales at cut-rate prices, or arranging to send flowers to hospitals to cheer healthcare workers and patients. But those are local solutions, and 85 percent of Dutch flowers, notably tulips, are exported.

The Netherlands' Agricultural and Horticultural organisation (LTO) estimates the damage to the entire Dutch agriculture industry at 5 billion euros. It is advising farmers, including flower growers, to hold onto their receipts and make visual documentation when crops go to waste.

Source
Reuters