US Flower Industry Suffers Due to Pandemic

March 27, 2020 Updated: March 27, 2020

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—With essentials like food, toilet paper, and sanitizing products being prioritized due to the CCP virus, other industries have taken a toll. One of these is the floral industry.

Throughout the United States, flower businesses are supplied through small farms or family-owned businesses. The majority of U.S. flower production is in California.

The flower supply chain includes planting, growing, harvesting, transporting, and selling. After the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, stores closed and demand for flowers decreased. However, flower farms are still growing.

According to Dave Pruitt, CEO of the California Cut Flower Commission, the American flower industry is down 80 percent.

“In terms of what we’re able to ship out from my growers, their orders are reduced to 20 percent or less of what would be normal this time of year,” Pruitt told The Epoch Times.

Paul Furman, who has a family-owned business called California Pajarosa Floral in Santa Cruz County, told The Epoch Times: “Our business is struggling, as we rely on events and weddings as a staple of our business. All school proms, weddings, and large events have been canceled for the foreseeable future.”

Officially, flowers are categorized under agriculture, which is included in the list of essential businesses that can still operate. However, with the shelter in place policy and social distancing becoming the norm during the pandemic, there are fewer people working on getting the flowers from greenhouses to consumers. Those who make deliveries are prioritizing necessities.

According to Pruitt, the industry is working hard to keep its distribution channels open, and farmers are still farming, because Easter and Mother’s Day are coming up.

“We have to continue to cut our flowers and take care of them to keep them alive, as well as heat our greenhouses so our plants do not go dormant. The high expense of operating along with little or no return makes it very difficult for a flower farm to operate viably under these conditions for any extended period of time,” said Furman.

He said they had to cut labor down to a minimum to be able to keep their operation alive.

Pruitt hopes that people will still buy flowers and will ask for them when they do not see them in the usual retail stores, to show that there is still a demand for them.

As of now, stores like Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Albertsons still have flowers for sale.

What Happens to the Surplus

Flowers are perishable, so they cannot wait for the quarantine to end and then be shipped out fresh. Those that were already cut and ready to be shipped might not make it to their new homes.

With the sudden surplus, some growers have had to donate them or throw them away.

Farai Madziva, vice president of Kitayama Brothers Inc., said they plant most of the crops 16 weeks in advance, so there’s nothing they can do about the flowers already planted.

“The flowers that were already cut, that were sitting in the coolers, those for sure are all going to waste. There’s nothing that we can do about it,” Madziva told The Epoch Times.

He said they’ve tried to donate flowers, but it is difficult getting transportation.

They are also finding it hard to decide whether or not to keep planting new ones for the crop in June, since it is difficult to predict what the market will be like then.

According to Madziva, if sales for flowers increase around Mother’s Day, they will not go to waste.

“This is probably the best time to have flowers in your home,” said Madziva.

In Southern California, the 50-acre Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch has also had a hard time deciding whether to cut its flowers down.

“We have donated a handful of the flowers but cannot continue to manage the flower crop. This was a very difficult decision, but with the lack of flower sales (shipping, purchasing, etc. has slowed immensely) and visitors, we sadly cannot continue. Once the flowers are cut back, we will harvest the bulbs and begin the process again,” Flower Fields general manager Fred Clarke told The Epoch Times in an email interview.

The Flower Fields is usually open to the public for viewing, but it is closed until further notice as people practice social distancing.

The farm is planning to host a series of virtual tours next week. Topics to be discussed include their butterfly program, how the Sweet Pea Maze grows, and the history of poinsettias.

“I am optimistic that better times are ahead, and hope that the future holds a greater value on our local community and how it pertains to a direct influence on our lives,” said Furman.

“We keep food moving because we need food for our bodies. We keep flowers moving because flowers feed our souls,” said Pruitt. “It’s such an important part for everybody’s daily life in terms of your physical health, wellness, spiritual wellness, happiness, [relieving] stress—all those types of things are what flowers bring to us. That’s why they’ve always been such an important part of our life.”

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.