Benguet flower industry wilts under quarantine
LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET—Magdalena Coyam-an, a flower grower and trader, shredded at least 80 bundles of alstroemeria (also called Peruvian Lily) inside her stall as these had started to wilt.
Some 100 more bundles of assorted cut flowers were scattered on the floor waiting to be destroyed as deliveries to Metro Manila were halted due to the Luzon-wide lockdown at the height of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) had issued a memorandum circular that would allow only vehicles carrying crop and agricultural commodities like rice and vegetables to pass through checkpoints in Metro Manila while the lockdown was in effect.
“Unlike vegetables, these flowers are not food that’s why they are not allowed to enter [Metro Manila],” Coyam-an told the Inquirer.
Most flower traders had closed their shops since Tuesday while a few others tried their luck to sell even just a bundle of flowers to earn money to get by.
Flower traders and farmers in Benguet province said they were already on the verge of going bankrupt at a time when demand for flowers was usually at its peak.
In the past years, farmers and traders would enjoy brisk sales between February and April when occasions such as festivals, graduations and school proms were held.
But the COVID-19 pandemic had eclipsed the demand for cut and ornamental flowers as mass gatherings were already canceled to stem the spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease.
Benguet produces an average of 25 million to 30 million metric tons annually, based on provincial government data. Over half of these are programmed by farmers to be harvested between February and April, the peak season, according to La Trinidad municipal agriculturist, Felicitas Ticbaen.
Benguet’s semitemperate climate is suitable for different flowers, grown either on open fields or greenhouses.
Florists and flower traders said they began seeing the decrease in sales during Valentine’s Day as the rising number of COVID-19 cases started to cause a health scare.
Baguio City also canceled the Panagbenga (Baguio Flower Festival), which draws large orders of flowers intended for its grand floral float parade.
Float designers would usually get fresh blooms from flower farms, mostly in La Trinidad, Atok and Tublay towns, where cut flowers are a major industry.
The flower trade would feel the ripple effects of the pandemic even more if the government decided to cancel other events, especially graduation exercises of schools, Coyam-an said.
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