DELAND, Fla. — With virtually every large gathering across the country cancelled due to COVID-19, cut-foliage growers had nowhere to send their product, greenery used to decorate and accent bouquets. But Sunday is Mother’s Day, and some will buy flowers for mom.
The Florida cut-foliage industry is valued at more than $100 million, not including the indirect impacts of the industry. Indirect impacts include providing significant employment, international trade importance, community development and tax revenue around the state, according to UF/IFAS Extension commercial horticulture agent Karen Stauderman.
When the stay-at-home order went into effect a month ago, cut foliage sales dropped by 80% to 90% over the first weekend of quarantine. Even as restrictions lift and the number of orders increase, this year’s sales are down by 40% to 50% compared to a normal Mother’s Day holiday, according to David Register, executive vice president of FernTrust, a cooperative of cut-foliage growers.
“I’ve been in this business for over 30 years and I have never been so uncertain as to how to plan, what to do or how to forecast because everything is so nebulous right now,” Register said. “There is no way to predict what is going to happen.”
This time of year, April through Mother’s Day, is when most growers make the largest profits, and that revenue carries them through the rest of the year, including the late-summer slow period. Many growers are hoping rescheduled events will help minimize annual losses.
“The last two years in our industry were really great and it all came to a screeching halt,” Register said. “We were just recovering from two years of devastating hurricanes. This has set us back again and made our future very uncertain.”
Even though sales are down, the cut-foliage industry is still working.
As a result of COVID-19, florist shops were deemed non-essential and closed. To move product, the industry worked together to readjust supply chains. Initially, the product was picked up by wholesalers for delivery directly to florists and florist shops. The deliveries stopped because the product could not be delivered to a store front and the industry had to develop alternative delivery chains. By working together, they found success by delivering the product themselves through coordinated efforts between the growers and florist industry.
“The industry is still working using social distancing, face masks and other measures to meet regulatory standards for a safe working environment,” Stauderman said. “The labor workforce is still intact and delivery capabilities are OK, too.”
To support the floral industry, look for products registered through the Certified American Grown program. If your local florist or grocery store does not carry American-grown products, request them.
“When you’re stuck at home and can’t go anywhere and do anything, can’t see your family and give them a hug – send them flowers from a local flower shop,” Register said. “There is no better way to say that you care about somebody than by sending them flowers.”
—Tory Moore, UF/IFAS