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The Reality of the Mother's Day Flower Market

If you 're having problems securing flowers for Mother's Day, you're not alone. Expect this Mother's Day to be an even bigger challenge than last year's. While COVID-19 made Mother's Day sales last year unpredictable, the holiday ended up to be favorable for most. This year, demand is guaranteed to outpace supply.

Last year, farms were still in production mode during the outbreak of COVID-19 and while we all managed to get through the holiday, this Mother's Day will be a challenge because product is scarce and prices are high.

Below is an article which recently appeared in the Flower and Cents newsletter. It's a good summary of what our industry is facing this season.

"It appears that all of the wishing we did for so many years, that Americans would start to appreciate flowers like the Europeans, has happened. With millions of Americans staying home, the need and desire for fresh floral products has blossomed at the same time when flower production worldwide is compromised by COVID-19.

In March 2020, when this whole mess started, growers around the world did not know what to do. New orders stopped overnight and cancellations were coming faster than anyone could believe. As each country started to deal with the realties of a pandemic the future was never more uncertain.

Growers could not get workers safely to the farms and as a result the plants were not tended to as normal. This put production behind schedule for Valentines 2021 and the results, we now know, were that prices were higher and supply was tight. To complicate matters, the very aggressive bouquet makers are buying up rose farms as fast as possible to secure their need for product. These purchases reduce the amount of product available for Wholesalers and others, further tightening the market. But the Valentine's holiday was a success by most accounts and the market continues to stay tight.

The whole story cannot be told without including the logistics that are required to get millions of stems grown, picked , graded, packed, sold and shipped from points worldwide. Logistics is a word that we have learned a lot about over the last 10 years. There are lots of moving parts to make all the logistic happen.

There are two major factors at play here - Shipping and Labor. Since passenger travel is down dramatically the flowers and other goods that normally travel in the bellies of these jetliners are now being shifted into the cargo airlines, ship containers and trucks. The "all cargo" airlines have been overwhelmed with this additional business at the same time demand for their aircraft is high due to the need to transport just about everything. Cargo Airlines were and still are considered essential by most governments allowing them to fly where others may not. Shipping by sea which has become a popular method of moving flowers has been compromised by delays at sea ports for many of the same reasons. COVID created a worldwide disruption in cargo moving around the globe so there are not enough empty containers at some ports and too many at others.

The second issue, labor, is less obvious, but very real. That is the lack of truck drivers that is facing the floral ground transport carriers. Armellini, Prime, Florida Beauty Floral are all facing driver shortages. This shortage is a result of increased regulation regarding commercial truck drivers. Part of the allure of being a truck in the past was the freedom of being on the open road traveling. The e-log requirement implemented a few years ago and the mandatory drug testing made the life of a driver much more restricted pushing many out of this job market.

Adding to the shortage truck driving schools were closed during the first year due to COVID and the result is a serious further lack of qualified truck drivers. The demand for drivers is very high all over the US and thus the easiest, best paying driving jobs are what qualified drivers can choose from. Drivers just want to be drivers. No loading and unloading. Amazon, Walmart, and other large companies offer this. When one looks at the typical requirements to be a floral driver it is not hard to see why this trend is not going well for flower delivery. Floral drivers are required to drive and unload and this is becoming more and more difficult to offer. I predict there will be some changes in the rates and level of service that carriers can offer in the future.

The next 12 months in the flower business will be one for the record books if things continue as they are".

- Willie Armellini

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