The cut flower and bulb industry in the Netherlands has been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, with exports down 26% in March, according to new figures from national statistics agency CBS.
In particular, exports to Italy were down 61%. Least affected were exports to Britain, traditionally the second-biggest export destination for Dutch flowers and plants, the CBS said. Flower, bulb, and plant exports contributed €9.5bn to the economy last year, making it the biggest sector within the farm products industry. In January, exports were up 10% on 2019, but by February this had gone down to 3%. Since the big hit in March, trade has picked up again, Marco van Zijverden, director of the Dutch Flower Group, told broadcaster NOS. DFG is an alliance of 33 companies active across the flower industry. ‘In March, the index was down to -40% to -80%, but we are now at -10% to -20%.’ Airfreight remains a major problem because of the cost, both for bringing in flowers from Africa and re-exporting them, he said. Many flower shipments are usually made in passenger planes and these have largely been cancelled. Nevertheless, consumers are continuing to buy and the ‘pain is less than we feared’, Van Zijverden said. Sunday – Mother’s Day – is the most important week of the year for the Dutch flower industry and online flower sales are soaring, one rose grower told the broadcaster. ‘The online shops face a challenge to prepare and deliver all the bouquets,’ he said.