Valentine’s Day: love it or leave it?

About a year ago, I wrote that planning around Valentine’s Day was so challenging, because of the soaring demand and insufficient supply. But this year, the Valentine’s period was completely different. There were several places where the demand wasn’t as high as usual, for example because of the cold January weather or because of the economic situation, like in France.

People say that the yellow vests movement is having a negative impact on the turnover of the entire retail segment, including plants and flowers. On the production side, thanks to the recent fine weather in Kenya and Ethiopia, supply was higher than usual. As a result, the European market got plenty of (or too many) flowers. The prices for both Dutch roses and imported roses went down.

In fact, prices dropped so much that some Kenyan growers decided to send smaller volumes to the auction the last days before Valentine’s. Those are the challenges we encounter again and again in the grower-to-consumer chain.

A thought that keeps coming back to me after each Valentine’s peak is this: should growers really be doing all that pruning to stimulate an additional flush so that they can meet the extra demand for, especially red, roses during that period?

Personally, I feel that the current way of working messes up the entire system. Due to the extra production for Valentine’s Day, there are fewer (red) roses on the market in the months before and after February. In fact, it can be a real struggle for the crop to get back to a more balanced state. In addition, the peak period requires additional, more expensive cargo flights to ship all the extra volume to Europe.

On the other hand, consumers want red roses for Valentine’s Day. But how happy are they with the quality resulting from early production and building up of stock in the chain to meet the high demand?

It’s a difficult question and probably always will be. But if we, as growers, service providers and retailers, continue to push the boundaries like we’re currently doing, I fear that consumers will lose interest in flowers for Valentine’s Day. This is exactly what happened to the flower sales around Christmas, which used to be a peak period too. In several countries, the focus during that period has shifted to plants and other, non-floricultural products. And if people do buy flowers for Christmas, they’re red and white only. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to reflect on how we’re managing Valentine’s Day.

Tom Vermeer

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