From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, there’s been a discussion about human versus economic casualties. President Jair Bolsonaro called Covid-19 a simple flu and wanted everyone to keep going to work as normal. However, the reality was that the country went into lockdown just like so many other countries.
In the meantime, the political crisis got worse by the week. One minister after another resigned and the remaining politicians were more concerned about their own political position than about leading the country. It’s not unlikely that large amounts of money ended up in the wrong pockets again due to overbilling for the purchase of medical equipment and so on.
Florists and garden centres were forced to close mid-March and they didn’t reopen until May. Veiling Holambra’s figures for April illustrate the crisis: 42% less turnover than in April 2019. Cut flowers were much worse off than pot plants. That’s because flowers are mainly bought for decorations and that market disappeared almost completely.
Within the auction, we took all the measures that allowed us to keep working; face masks became mandatory, we took hygiene measures, enforced social distancing etc. Luckily, we managed to keep all the processes running.
The cooperative is a strong organisation and we tried to do what we could to support our members at this time. We paid the 2011 loans in full in April instead of in monthly installments. We set our destroying fee to zero for the time being. And we stopped charging peak rates for any logistic means.
At the end of April, we announced that commission would be adjusted downwards by one percent until 1 January 2021. We spoke to individual customers with payment problems about possible solutions. In the end, all the bills were paid. In the cooperative, we stand strong together!
To stimulate sales, we also invested in extra marketing activities. Both in the shops and through the media. Plants and flowers are powerful products, which make one of the best gifts for special days, like Mother’s Day!
A crisis always stirs things up. We’ve been trying our best to adjust. Growers and customers have been making much more use of the digital services, especially auction presale has increased dramatically. We are now fully operational for 24 hours, 7 days per week, including commercial services, logistic deliveries and administrative services!
Customers can buy products any time via auction presale and if they’re available on the premises, we immediately distribute the purchased products to the customer’s box and make the invoice. The grower can subsequently supply more produce.
The new possibilities have already led to positive results: fresher produce, better use of space, more efficient use of logistics means, faster service and the grower has better insight into market demand. For the first time, 24/7 is a reality!
The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the resilience of our sector and brought about improvements to our services. The future of our industry is looking bright!
André van Kruijssen,
Managing director Veiling Holambra
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