Australia Flower industry expects losses 'in the millions' as Victoria's snap COVID lockdown affects weddings and Valentine's Day

04:16  15 february  2021
04:16  15 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Trentham flower grower Cheryl Roehrich spent a year gearing up for one of her biggest days of the year; Valentine's Day.

She had an abundance of freshly cut flowers to sell, and five weddings planned, when it all came to a sudden halt when the State Government announced a snap five-day coronavirus lockdown on Friday afternoon

"At one o'clock, when it was announced, the industry went into a spin," Ms Roehrich said.

"Flowers were already prepared, ready to go for weddings, greenery had been picked and trucks were already delivering the product — it's done a lot of damage to our business."

"The is the third time that we've had a large amount of flowers basically go to waste, and there's nothing we can do."

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Eighty per cent of her stock has been lost over the weekend, including flowers like hydrangeas, proteas and greenery.

'How many times?'

Ms Roehrich is now questioning her next step.

"How many times can a small business take a cop like this and back it up again?" she said.

"After the first lockdown, we were very hesitant to replant for the next season.

"Eventually we did, and we got locked down again. Do we keep planting? Do we wait until this is all over?"

In Melbourne's CBD florist Liz Ricci said the new lockdown and five-kilometre travel bubble had killed the foot traffic that she heavily relied on.

"We've sold less than 30 per cent of what we would have initially sold," she said.

Ms Ricci said online orders were still proceeding, but it was not enough.

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"Some of this will just be waste," she said.

"We can't even go out into the CBD and give it away to people — there's no one here."

Industry tracking well despite losses

Flowers Industry Australia chief executive Anna Jabour said it was hard to put a figure on how much had been lost over the weekend, but expected it would be in the millions.

"On Valentine's Day alone, any florist can make three months' trade in one day," she said.

"It was also a significant impact because weddings were planned and a lot of corporate functions, which had flowers booked and were cancelled.

"It also really does make a huge difference for shopfront florists when they can't have that foot traffic going by."

Ms Jabour said despite losses over the weekend, the industry had been tracking well.

She said the loss of exports during COVID-19 meant local production had picked up.

"There's been a huge push now towards local growers, and it's great to see florists supporting local," Ms Jabour said.

Florists urge consumers to shop locally

Ms Jabour said many growers were looking for compensation for losses over the weekend, but in the meantime, they have been asking Victorians to support local small businesses.

And it is something Melbourne florist Shane Sipolis is noticing.

"On the weekend, everything went dead — the phones stopped ringing," he said.

"Then at about lunchtime on Sunday, our loyal clientele got on board and ordered some flowers from home, and got us out of some hot water.

"We didn't have that Valentine's Day crowd, so we're left with about a thousand rose stems.

"But the fact that everyone has stood up and helped us, has allowed us to tread water and keep our heads above it."

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