Flower industry ‘wilting’ during lockdown

PETALING JAYA: Flower farmers in Cameron Highlands are forced to throw away tonnes of flowers each day as florists all over the country are closed during the lockdown.

Cameron Highlands Indian Farmers Association president Mathan Subramaniam said over 100 such farmers who supply flowers to the whole of the peninsula are seeing losses running into tens of thousands of ringgit daily.

He said the farmers were not only losing out on current business, but also on investments in the past months when tending to the flowering plants that have to be discarded now.

“It takes three or four months to grow young plants until it is time to harvest, ” he said.

“A lot of money has been spent to buy the young plants and fertilisers, as well as to pay salaries to farm workers and electricity bills.”

The farmers, he added, schedule their planting to ensure they are able to harvest a batch daily.

“The harvesting process cannot be delayed because it takes about a week for the flowers to reach the end customer, which would be just right.

“If the flowers have fully bloomed at the point of harvesting, it would wilt by the time it reaches the end customer.

“So we are left with no choice but to discard our harvest, ” said Mathan, adding that the flower growers suffered major losses during the first movement control order last year, and were still struggling to get back on their feet.

“Many just recovered from huge losses. The flower business just started to improve and is badly hit again. Most farmers plant chrysanthemum in a variety of colours that is mainly used for prayers.

“I hope the government will allow flower shops to open. Just like vegetables, flowers are perishable and businesses related to them should be allowed to open, ” he said.

Mathan also said the losses suffered by the farmers caused a ripple effect on the ecosystem that supports many other livelihoods.

“Some farmers are unable to buy fertilisers and pay salaries to their workers. There are also many small-time flower stall owners who have lost their income throughout the country.

“We are not sure how long the MCO will last, but the situation is getting critical.”

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