True love may cost a little more this Valentine’s Day with the global supply chain crisis hitting the flower industry and forcing up the cost of a single – albeit pimped up – rose to as much as $70.
The Flower Industry Australia chief executive, Anna Jabour, said there had been issues with rose supply for a while now, but this Valentine’s Day was seeing prices in excess of double what roses would normally cost.
“As countries shut down, supply chains shut down, and it did make it harder for flowers to come in,” she said. “But this particular Valentine’s Day, florists have been hit by crazy prices.”
Jabour said Ecuadorian roses – a popular import – had been particularly expensive, with prices of up to $140 a dozen for wholesale, which could rise as Valentine’s Day drew closer.
Up to 90% of roses are now imported into Australia, which Jabour said would make it increasingly difficult for florists and major supermarkets who relied on imports to price their bouquets reasonably.
“Roses have been one of the particular varieties that have wiped out local growers because of cheap labour costs and how cheap they bring them in,” she said.
Online florist Mr Roses was offering a box of six imported roses for $99 – not including shipping or vase – while Melbourne-based flower delivery service The Little Market Bunch was charging $68.95 for a single red rose in a box, adorned with a small cutting of baby’s breath (shipping excluded).
Leading floral retailer Roses Only was charging $74.95 for a single long-stemmed red rose, nestled in tissue paper and presented in a box complete with chocolates.
Jabour said as imported prices rose, the pandemic had seen a greater push towards supporting local and heightened demand for Australian-grown product, which was generally priced more reasonably.
“We’ve seen a lot of people asking where flowers are from and demand locally grown flowers,” she said. “The difficulty lies in how much supply there is in the local market.
“We encourage everyone to embrace the romance of all fresh Australian grown flowers this Valentine’s Day like beautiful lisianthus, dahlias, lilies, chrysanthemums and the heart shaped anthurium.”
It comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission urges consumers to ask where their flowers have been sourced amid reports some large national suppliers are misleading customers their products are local.
It has launched an investigation into the operations of online order gatherers – that either create floral arrangements in large distribution centres or outsource purchases.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said consumers were often willing to pay “premium prices” at local florists in the hope for fresh flowers and didn’t know they were cut days earlier and treated with chemicals before being imported.
Jan Claire runs C the Market tours of flower markets in Melbourne’s north. Victoria accounts for about half of products grown nationally.
“Since Covid, with the government imposed shutdowns, every grower lost a lot of money with snap closures just when flowers were ready for the market,” she said.
Claire said freight charges had “skyrocketed” on imports.
“There’ll always be flowers, but fewer numbers has affected the price,” she said. “And the general public is oblivious as to whether what they’re buying is local or imported.”
There is a push in the flower industry for original labelling to be introduced on products to give consumers greater awareness of where their product has originated.
“If the public was aware how many flowers they’re buying are imported there might be a shift – at the moment they’re oblivious,” Claire said.
“If people want red roses for Valentines they’ll probably end up with imported, because the local ones have been pre-ordered and snapped up.”
Sean Cook has just had to turn to imports himself. A floral designer for weddings and events at Mr Cook, based in Sydney, he said the shortages hitting the market were “really drastic” at the beginning of the pandemic, and while things slowly improved, prices were pushed up.
“A lot of flowers at the market are imported, especially during winter,” he said. “All orchids, big Colombian roses, we try to use local when possible but sometimes you just can’t.
“In the beginning hardly anything was coming in. Now everything at market is at least 30% more for imported products, which has led local producers to put their prices up too.
“It’s crazy, when you tell people what flowers cost they’re like ‘is that the market price?’”
Cook said that, for larger orders, many growers just “didn’t take it on” any more, making Valentine’s Day “the perfect storm”.