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A flower shortage is driving up costs for a Mother's Day of post-COVID-19 reunions

Haley Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The scene was a stark change from Mother’s Day 2020, when the still-nascent pandemic had driven businesses to a near halt and kept many people separated from their loved ones. Last May, flower vendors in Los Angeles were granted permission to offer retail curbside pickup just days before the holiday.

Amit Shah, president of nationwide retailer 1-800-FLOWERS, said Friday that many growers did not see their usual demand in 2020 because of retail closures and event cancellations. As a result, the growers planted less in preparation for another similar year.

“Now, with the country reopening and retailers attracting more customers in-store, the demand for florals this spring has exceeded expectations,” Shah said.

Some sellers were reeling from the dramatic swing.

“It’s way better than last year,” said Francisco Rios, who arrived at the Los Angeles Flower Market at 1 a.m. to prepare for Friday’s rush. “Everything is almost back to normal.”

But some of the ramifications of last year’s COVID-19 shutdowns are still being felt in the flower world, according to industry experts.

 

“There was a lot of fear of investing and regrowing the pipeline without knowing what the demand needs were going to be,” said Mark Chatoff, president and chief executive of California Flower Mall, also in the downtown Flower District. Chatoff said he lost about 30% of his vendors during the summer months last year, and some never returned.

There are other factors, too. One flower-seller Friday pointed to unseasonably cold weather in Colombia, Ecuador and other growth regions as a reason for the squeeze, along with workers’ strikes in Colombia. Another noted that many flower farms were abandoned during the pandemic, and that with no one there to spray insecticides, disease ran rampant and ruined the crops.

It was like a “perfect storm for poor production,” Chatoff said, noting that other industries, such as lumber, electronics and logistics, have experienced similar supply chain issues recently.

“Everything is becoming a little bit more complex as a result of the pandemic, or the transition from the pandemic into activating the local economy,” he said. “There are additional costs that are being incurred.”

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