Covid, a year after: I wilt, survive

Bengaluru’s famed floriculture is looking forward to a rosy 2021 after a devastating 2020

Bengaluru’s claim as a garden city has strong economic underpinnings. But despite Karnataka and Bengaluru being major contributors to the Indian floriculture sector, 2020 was a bad year for flower growers. More than 3,000 of the city’s flower growers suffered huge losses, an estimated Rs 300 crore in the first three months of lockdown.

But last year, no weddings were held due to the covid-enforced lockdown which coincided with the wedding season. Most big-ticket events scheduled in summer were also cancelled. And farmers were hard hit.

“The star hotels remained closed and there were no banquets, no weddings, no celebrations. Tonnes of flowers lay rotting in the farms,” said Srikanth Bolapalli, director, South India Floriculture Association. He added that the fast selling and much-in-demand decorative flowers like roses, carnation, chrysanthemum and zerbera grown over 2500 acres had no takers, resulting in huge losses.

Bolapalli also revealed that more than 1000 flower farmers have shut shop and are not looking to make a comeback. “The flower growers would invest big money before summer, knowing that the yield in summer would double their investment. Last year, due to the lockdown, they could not recover their costs,” said Srikanth.

Kamala Devi, a lady flower grower with a farm close to Doddaballapur, said “It was so bad that even the cost of tilling the land and of water soluble fertilisers too could not be salvaged. Kamala pointed out that the electricity bills are huge because power is consumed round the clock in the Green House.

“10 workers are required to work on one hectare of land and effectively 75,000 people are employed in flower cultivation in Bengaluru. While the Green House flower growers retained their staff and continued to pay wages, most other growers chose to cut salaries result ing in thousands of field workers seeking jobs in industrial fields,” said Bolapalli. A large number of workers in his Green House farm are from Bihar and Varanasi and they returned to their hometowns during the lockdown, said Bolapalli.



One of the few survivors in the business, Bolapalli, a Green House flower grower himself, says it will take a while for this sector to recover, globally. “The banks did help during this period by advancing loans. And with no pressure on EMIs for the first three months, one could breathe easy and explore new avenues to make a comeback,” said Bolapalli.

He revealed that he chose to re-invest again for his summer crop, planting flowering plants in his 30-acre flower farm. And the exercise again is likely to end in a loss. “Though the government has lifted sanctions on hotels and the small wedding halls are back in business, the domestic flower market has only marginally improved and hopefully it will get better in April and May, provided that there is no second wave,” said Bolapalli, who lost four crore last year.

City’s floral economy

Large quantities of the flowers are cultivated in over 7,500 hectares of land in and around Bengaluru. Bengaluru is next only to Kolkata in production of cut flowers, which is a flourishing commercial segment of Indian agriculture. Thirty per cent of the flowers grown in Bengaluru are exported to Dubai and European countries and the rest are sold in the domestic market. Flowers bloom during the summer and sales are high from March to May, the peak wedding season.

The Indian Floriculture market, according to trade analysts, is expected to reach INR Rs 50,000 crore by the end of 2026. But with the covid setback, will this come true? Time only will tell.

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Sagar Biswas

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