With the precision & harmony of a symphony orchestra, the global floriculture industry involves an intricate, interconnected and interdependent chain of farmers, wholesalers, airlines, cargo ships, traders, florists and supermarkets. To bring you through this floral journey series, we have spoken to florists, wholesalers and more to understand how the global – and local – floriculture world is being changed before our very eyes. Over the next few weeks join us in exploring this fascinating world!Fleurica
Conversations with Kampong Flowers
We caught up electronically, #SocialDistancing, with the team at Kampong Flowers. A fresh face in a sector which until recently was dominated by a handful of well-established companies, Kampong Flowers is on the front lines of Singapore’s flower import business. Rather than going through the Holland auctions, which many flower wholesalers do, they deal directly with small flower farms across the globe. We wanted to know from them how local trends become global influences in the flower industry, particularly in the time of COVID-19.
Our focus on garden roses simply comes from the love that we have for their charm and scent. Garden roses come in a large range of varieties with many blooms, shapes and colours.Kampong Flowers
Less than one year old, Kampong Flowers started operations in mid-2019. Although they import other cut flowers and greens, garden roses have become their specialty. Talking to Bob & Woody about roses is a wonderful lesson in the science and economics surrounding the supply chain of these beautiful flowers.
Fast forward 10 months and global economic activity has come to a screeching halt, businesses around the world are closed, entire cities & countries on lockdown. The Holland flower exchange – a flower industry barometer – is struggling, and truckloads of cut flowers are being composted. The knock on effect has reverberated through the global flower industry supply chain like a thunderbolt.
“The ripple effects in the whole supply chain has caused the floral industry to suffer significantly since flowers are grown but not sold.”Kampong Flowers
Local florists around the world have had to suspend operations, either because of lack of foot traffic to their stores, or as directed by government imposed shutdown. The effect rippled back to the growers, who found themselves with a premium harvest of blooms, and no buyers. In some key markets, demand for cut flowers has almost completely stopped.
Despite lowering prices significantly, some growers face up to 90% decline in demand for their blooms. As businesses, they can only maintain this for a finite period before it becomes untennable. Flowers are perishable as soon as they start to bloom, whether they are cut or not, meaning they must be harvested.
Flower farms are a major source of employement in rural areas, and as employers, flower growers need to think about the devastating effect of closing their farms on the local economy and employment. Buying flowers from your local florist has a, positive, ripply effect all along the supply chain back to the growers and their employees.
“As for importing, although there is a drop in oil prices, freight costs are going up. […] There are very few flights which has led to many airlines increasing air freight rates. […] With significant cargo capacity being removed from the system, fresh flower shipments compete with other perishables for the limited cargo space. Importers also face the risk of not being able to bring in flowers at all if there are last minute flight cancellations. On the other hand, growers face an oversupply of fresh flowers since large markets have collapsed.”Kampong Flowers
For some it isn’t the actual demand that has diminished – it is the means of transporting fresh flowers. Truckloads of cut, boxed, prepped flowers compete for cargo space with other fresh goods. If no space is available, the flowers, a perishable product, are disposed of at the airport. Further down the line this means that wholesalers will face a sudden supply shortage (as well as absorb the cost of purchasing flowers that they do not receive), and eventually trickles down to the florist struggling to keep orders coming in, and to meet their customers requests for particular flowers.
The Circuit Breaker measures implemented, and now extended, in Singapore, mean that many floral businesses have been forced to move their operations online, from supply to delivery to the end consumer. If they are even able to remain open & operating. This is not a straightforward step in an industry that depends on the look, feel and smell of their work and the emotional connection of their creations.