Dutch tulip sales are down nearly a third on last year, but the industry thinks it can see the first blooms of recovery on the horizon.
The flat countryside of the Netherlands is a sea of colour. It’s the peak of the Dutch tulip season.
But this year, as for many other industries, it is tough out there.
Coronavirus has caused florists to close, logistical problems, supply chain issues, and a big fall in sales.
The Dutch cut flowers co-operative, Royal FloraHolland, reported turnover this week of €21 million, down 28 per cent on last year.
And there’s a knock-on effect of trade fairs being cancelled, and a drop in tourism as the public is unable to travel.
The Netherlands’ most famous floral hotspot, Keukenhof, (literally ‘kitchen garden’) usually attracts more than a million visitor per year.
Right now the flowers are blooming, but the park is empty. This year’s display can only be viewed virtually.
“It affects not only the 1,300 temporary employees, but also people who work in coach and public transport, tourism and in the flower bulb and flower sector itself.”
Across Europe, the industry employs more than three-quarters of a million people.
A group of 50 MEPs has now written to the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, warning “the viability and survival of the complete ornamental sector in the EU, and all related jobs and businesses, is now at stake.”
They call for the EU to provide more financial support, but also to ensure that there are no blockages in the supply chain as businesses try to start up again.
And there is concern about damage outside Europe too. According to local reports, 1,000 people have been laid off in Kenya because of a drop in flower exports.
Back in the Netherlands, the industry is “very positive” about support being provided by the Dutch government, although it would like a dedicated emergency fund for growers and suppliers.
There could be the first fragile signs of recovery on the horizon.
This morning Royal FloraHolland issued a market update announcing it plans to start phasing out supply controls which have been in place for the past month.
“We realise that we are certainly not at pre-crisis levels yet, but a number of producers are recovering. Royal FloraHolland must therefore gradually reduce the supply regulation from Wednesday 29 April.”
Royal FloraHolland, 29 April 2020
Florists have now reopened in Germany and Switzerland.
Garden centres and wholesalers are back at work in Belgium. Florists are due to reopen in the coming weeks The Flemish government has proposed delaying Mother’s day from 10th to 17th May by which point the “shops will be open [and] florists can deliver”.