Farmers unable to get flowers to the market

Huge losses: Farm workers in Cameron Highlands harvesting flowers for delivery. A good number of these flowers will be discarded now.

PETALING JAYA: With no lorries allowed to transport flowers out of the farms, the lockdown has severely affected the livelihood of farmers as they are forced to throw away their fresh produce.

In Cameron Highlands, it is estimated that at least 40 tonnes of fresh flowers end up in the trash daily since the lockdown was imposed on June 1.

To date, flower farmers have been forced to discard more than 480 tonnes of fresh flowers, which include chrysanthemums, roses, daisies, carnations, marigolds and sunflowers, with losses amounting to over RM13mil.

Cameron Highlands Floriculturists Association deputy president Wong Seng Yee said the flowers were meant for the local market.

“Many of them were meant for the first day of the lunar month that fell on June 10, which coincided with the lockdown.

“With no means to transport them to wholesalers or sellers, they had to be destroyed,” he said when contacted.

Having learnt from the first movement control order last March, which saw 1,200 tonnes of fresh flowers being thrown away in the first three weeks with some RM33mil in reported losses, Wong said the 225 farmers in Cameron Highlands have since reduced their farm size by 40%.

Since the lockdown has been extended to June 28, Wong, whose farms are in Habu, Ringlet near Cameron Highlands, said many farmers have resorted to destroying the plants on their farms to cut down on their losses.

“Since we cannot sell these flowers, it is better to stop the farming process the soonest to cut down on input costs such as watering, pesticide, manpower and care.

“It is a bitter decision to make but farmers really have no other choice,” he said.

Association president Lee Peng Fo said local orders totally stopped since May 30 as the floral industry was not included in the list of essential services under the International Trade and Industry Ministry.

He added that 80% of flowers from Cameron Highlands were meant for the export market while 20% were for local buyers.

“However, demand in the export market has also gone down by between 40% and 60% this year because of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Lee, whose initial 20ha flower farm was partially transformed to grow vegetables, said many flower farmers had resorted to diversifying their farm produce to survive.

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