Buying flowers for Mother’s Day? Expect to pay more for less variety in 2022, wholesalers say

AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Australians looking for the perfect Mother’s Day bouquet are set to spend more than usual for a smaller variety of blooms, as sky-high air transport costs and disastrous weather at home limit the nation’s flower supplies.

Shoppers are projected to spend $754 million on gifts for this Mother’s Day, according to Roy Morgan research, with flowers ranking as the #1 gift of choice.

As Australia lacks the climate and growing regions to keep up with demand, importers have already secured plane cargo loads full of roses, chrysanthemums, and other classic blooms.

But with just days to go until the annual celebration, industry leaders warn the sector is not immune to the supply chain pressures constraining businesses nationwide.

Anubhav Sharma, CEO of distributor Blush Petals, said the cost of importing blooms from floral hotspots like Kenya, Colombia, and Malaysia remains a significant concern.

“One of the major problems that we faced is the freight situation, the air freight capacity, has been very, very tough,” he said.

Rising fuel prices, combined with the knock-on effects of war in Ukraine, have diminished air freight capacity, increasing the cost of the nation’s favourite flowers.

So too have the lingering border restrictions in many flower-producing nations, Sharma added, further constraining the quantity and variety of blooms available for importation.

Tony Pavlou, owner of importer Australian Flower Group, said air freight prices have only increased since early 2022, when importers struggled to find cargo space to accommodate demand for Valentines’ Day roses.

“It’s not nearly back to normal … so the price of product remains high,” Pavlou said.

Labour shortages, weather constraining local growth

Domestic concerns will also limit the kind of blooms available before May 8, including a shortage of workers in the nation’s select flower-growing regions.

“One of the biggest challenges that our local growers have had is sourcing and the availability of labour,” Pavlou said. “Some of the crops have not actually managed to be picked in time.”

“If there’s a shortage of labour, it cost more to pick what is getting picked, but also less product is getting picked, which means higher prices.”

Recent flooding in northern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland “basically wiped out a lot of crop”, Sharma says.

“There’s been huge shortages as that crop was grown specifically to fulfill demand for Mother’s Day, and because of a shortage in local production,” he said.

Growers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the impacts of climate change, he added, pointing to “very adverse” weather conditions in nations like Colombia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Ecuador.

“Their production capacity is also diminished. There’s definitely a lot of shortages, and also these because of the shortages, the prices have gone up significantly.”

Shoppers have been advised they may not find the same variety of blooms at their local florist as they may have expected in previous years, and retailers are likely to pass on costs as a result of the supply chain crunch.

While international flight routes are slowly reopening, Sharma said such constraints could linger through to December.

“It could be perfect weather for the next two months and we get a flush of flowers, it could be very bad conditions that might affect the supply even leading up to Christmas this year,” he said.

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