For Indian flower exporters, the Christmas and the New Year festive season is not bringing any cheers this year. The reason being the exports of cut flowers such as roses, gerberas and carnations have come to a halt. A muted demand coupled with a sharp increase in air freight rates and disruption in the aviation sector, to control the spread of Covid-19, has hit the exports.

“There’s no demand. Even if there are some enquires, we are too expensive as the freight rates have gone up sharply,” said Srikanth Bollapally, President, Growers Flower Council of India, a growers body.

Freight rates for perishables like flowers have more than doubled since the outbreak of Covid-19 from earlier this year. The shipping cost for of flowers to European destinations from major producing regions such as Bengaluru and Pune has now reached ₹200-225 a kg from ₹70-80/kg in pre-Covid period.

Similarly, the air freight charges from India have increased to other markets such as SouthEastern Asia, among others. As a result, the Indian flowers have turned expensive in the overseas markets, where the African producers such as Kenya and Zimbabwe are seen expanding their market shares.

“The cancellation of flights to UK will negatively impact the floriculture exports. UK was one of the big markets for us for the New Year and Valentines Day season,” said Praveen Sharma, President, Indian Society of Floriculture Professionals.

Further, there are no enquiries for the forthcoming Valentines Day season, said Bollapally, who is also the director of the South India Floriculture Association. “By this time of the year, we would normally get several enquiries for Valentines Day. But we haven’t received any,” he added.

India’s floriculture exports during April-October this year were 15 per cent lower at 9,446 tonnes as compared to 11,144 tonnes in the same period last year. In value terms, floriculture exports fell 11 per cent to $41 million ($47 million in same period last year). In rupee terms, the exports were lower at ₹309 crore (₹332 crore).

Earlier this year, the Covid-induced lockdown had hit the flower growers, forcing many to uproot the plants and start growing vegetables. However, the marriage season during the end of the year had lent some support as growers saw good demand amidst reduced supplies. “The wedding season has been good, so far. Reduced supply to an extent of about 30 per cent as several growers uprooted their plants supported the prices during the wedding season,” Bollapally said.

Domestic support

“Domestic market supported us quite well. In the last 20-25 days, prices were on the uptrend due to the wedding season demand. Shortage of flowers resulted in prices going up to ₹15-16 per stem of rose, which is usually a Valentines Day price,” said Sharma.

The price increase is unlikely to help the growers recoup the losses witnessed this year. However, the price increase has seen interest coming back to growers, who are seen taking up replanting now, which should help ease supplies by March-April, he added.