Western U.S. flower growers say demand this spring has reached “exponentially higher” levels.
A few days before Mother’s Day, growers across California and Oregon said they were overwhelmed with orders. With COVID restrictions loosening, many anticipate big sales for events this summer.
“There’s definitely an uptick in demand for fresh flowers this year,” said Steve Dionne, executive director of the California Association of Flower Growers and Shippers, or CalFlowers.
Industry leaders say the American consumer’s relationship with flowers has also changed. The past year, more shoppers have bought flowers for “ordinary days” rather than just for special occasions — a trend that’s continuing.
But flower farmers continue to wrestle with COVID-related challenges, including labor shortages, transportation disruptions and over-consolidation of the industry that will likely result in a flower shortage this year.
This spring stands in bold contrast to spring of 2020, which Dionne described as “a time of terror through the industry.”
During 2020’s toughest months, the domestic flower industry underwent major consolidation. Many florists, wholesalers and growers went out of business. Some farmers switched flower acreage to other crops.
The industry made a U-turn during the summer as Americans bought more flowers to adorn their homes and give to friends.
Flower demand in 2021, growers say, is “exponentially higher.”
In the lead-up to Mother’s Day, marketers and florists say they’re seeing record sales.
Julie Ortiz, a second-generation flower farmer and sales manager at California company Joseph and Sons Inc., said she’s “fortunate and blessed” customers have recently shown “nonstop interest” in cut flowers.
Dionne, of CalFlowers, said it’s still a bit premature to predict wedding sales because many couples are still watching state restrictions and scoping out venues. But growers, he said, are already being “flooded” with wedding inquiries.
In Oregon, Stacey Denton, owner of Flora, a small organic flower farm in Williams, said she’s seeing a wedding comeback.
“In my experience, I feel like it’s totally rebounded to 2019 levels,” she said.
Last year, COVID prompted Denton to create an online floral store, which she plans to continue developing along with the wedding side of her business.
Dionne, of CalFlowers, said many people who postponed funerals are also ordering flowers.
Experts say a few other factors are also impacting the supply-and-demand curves.
The first is consolidation. Fewer domestic growers has led to tighter supply.
U.S. growers are also seeing less foreign competition. The U.S. imports about 80% of its cut flower supplies annually, but because of jammed ports, limited air cargo capacity, vaccine doses taking up cooler space and civil unrest in Colombia, imports have shrunk this year.
Import difficulties have also tightened supplies of certain flower varieties. Bulbs from Holland are backlogged, and many farmers are having trouble importing specific seeds.
Finally, labor shortages in both the agricultural and trucking sectors have recently made it difficult to harvest and ship flowers on time.
Despite these challenges, Dionne, the industry expert, said he thinks the American fresh cut flower industry is having its day in the sun.
“We’ve never seen demand like this,” he said. “It’s been a good run.”