Valentine’s week and local wedding season see business picking up for flower growers
In the front yard of the International Flower Auction Bangalore Ltd (IFAB), vans unload their cargo of roses which have just arrived from farms outside the city. Inside, in the auditorium, bidders snap up lots every few seconds – on average, more than 5 lakh roses are sold each day at the IFAB this Valentine’s week leading up to February 14. After two tough years when demand for flowers plummeted due to the pandemic, things are looking rosy again for roses.
Bangalore is India’s biggest rose trading hub and growers in the region say demand and prices are rising this season. “What is surprising is that we have received the highest number of export orders this year,” says M Sridhar, managing director of Suvarna Florex, which has farms in Hosur, just beyond the Karnataka border. “I can say it’s a good Valentine’s Day.”
Add to that the local wedding season, which has accelerated over the past two weeks as Omicron restrictions eased across the country. “The market is very good. There will be weddings until the end of June,” says Srikanth Bollapally, director of the growers’ association, the South India Floriculture Association (SIFA). “The internal market is based on marriage. When the wedding season is strong, the prices are good.
This was not the case six months ago. Even as late as October, growers say the outlook looked bleak, forcing many to quit the business and look to other crops. The floriculture trade has been hit hard since the pandemic took hold and events came to a screeching halt – while exports have plummeted, the local wedding season between April and June has been a disaster in 2020 and 2021.
“It was extremely bad. We threw thousands of flowers,” Sridhar says. “90% of the industry was in trouble and everyone was wondering whether to continue or not.”
The fresh-cut rose market includes Dutch roses, which are used for decorations – longer stems sell better. As a general rule, the period between a cutting and a new flower is 45 days. When the market was down, growers resorted to pinching the flower – without cutting the stems – to get the plants to sprout leaves and thus delay the next bloom, or they didn’t replant old bushes.
“A lot of producers have also left the company,” says Bollapally. Things have started to improve since Diwali as local demand has increased and the Omicron wave hasn’t caused much disruption either, he says. “Now after seeing that consistency, people are replanting and a certain percentage [of growers] return to the business. Domestic prices are around ₹15-25 a rod, he said.
“Today, it is only thanks to the Indian market that the floriculture industry survives,” explains Sridhar, whose company exports nearly 80% of its production.
Fewer flights, high freight rates
The export market, however, is still impacted by fewer flights and high transport costs. “This year, we got orders in advance due to limited flights. Everyone was afraid whether they would receive the flowers or not. Usually they were talking until the last week of January,” says Sridhar. “Limited flights and high airfreight are really a very big problem. This is the biggest challenge and even we are afraid to confirm orders from buyers.
Currently, air freight charges are almost double, he says. To certain destinations, such as New Zealand for example, up to three times. But orders keep pouring in as air connectivity is an issue affecting most rose-exporting countries and customers cannot get enough flowers, Sridhar says.
The major destinations for Indian cut rose exports are the UK, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Australia.
TM Aravind, director of SIFA, says growers have asked the government to step in and help the industry. “Because freight rates have gone up 30-40%, exporters aren’t showing up,” he says. “Now the production is good and the market consumption is also good. But growers who were hit in 2020 and 2021 will need another two years to recoup that loss. »
Fresh cut roses accounted for 5% of India’s total floriculture exports. ₹575.98 crore in 2020-21. The floriculture export industry includes cut flowers, potted plants, cut foliage, seed bulbs, tubers, rooted cuttings, and dried flowers or leaves.
Major floriculture centers include Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
Bangalore’s Pink Connection
For roses, the region around Bangalore ticks all the boxes for favorable growing conditions – altitude, temperature and soil – in addition to connectivity. Sridhar of Suvarna Florex estimates that this region accounts for nearly 50% of India’s Dutch rose production.
Bangalore produces a minimum of 3 million stems a day, supplying international destinations as well as Indian metros, says Srikanth Bollapally. Nationally, Delhi and Hyderabad are the biggest consumers of roses here.
Some of this is sold through IFAB – a joint venture between the Karnataka government and growers – where auctions are held daily. Currently, around 50 to 60 producers sell their products through the IFAB.
“The demand for roses has increased this year, even the production is good,” says IFAB Chief Executive Dr M Viswanath. “Last year, we received an average of 4,000,000 flowers a day during the Valentine’s Day season. But now we receive an average of 5-5.5 lakh.
Indeed, the IFAB is aiming for a turnover of ₹50 crore this exercise, higher than his previous best of ₹35 crore in 2018-19.
Currently, the average prices at the IFAB are ₹12-₹14 per rod. As a rule, the quality is determined by three parameters – the length of the stem, the size of the bud and the quality of the leaves. “Anything over 50cm (stem size) sells for a very good price,” says Viswanath.
For flower growers, the hope is that the current trend continues. Volumes have not returned to the level they had before, underlines Bollapally. “Once the number of flights increases, I think exports will continue at the volumes that were happening before.”