No blossoms for flower business

LIV Flowers’s greenhouses are full of flowering anthuriums and gerberas, but how long can they fight against the falling rand?

High hopes of King Shaka International Airport and DubeTradeport boosting the cut flower industry are fading like the falling petals of a dying rose.

Yet, Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone CEO, Hamish Erskine said the TradePort has certainly played a role in growing KwaZulu-Natal’s perishable export market, which includes fresh flowers.

“Key to this growth has been the state-of-the-art logistics infrastructure, which includes the variable temperature trucking and handling facilities that are available to local growers, the packhouse and distribution centre that can handle the packing and sorting of perishables, along with a cargo terminal that houses all the regulatory authorities in a single facility in order to minimize processing times of highly perishable produce like fresh flowers,” said Erskine

“All this culminates to form a highly efficient supply chain, which is essential for the local fresh flower grower’s bottom line, as it helps them to become more competitive as they export their fresh flowers into regional and international markets.

“This year alone over two tonnes of fresh flowers have been handled through the Dube Cargo Terminal and exported to international markets, this accounts for roughly half the total volume of perishable goods exported out of Durban’s King Shaka International Airport in the first three quarters of 2017.”

Despite the impressive setup, Dube TradePort freight forwarding agent Morgan Cargo’s director for KZN, Cecil Leigh said most of the flower exports come from Cape Town or Johannesburg. “We only see about 300 kilograms of flowers sent twice a week from Durban to the Seychelles,” said Leigh.

North Coast cut flower producers said DubeTradeport has not made any difference to their business.

Bloemendaal Floral Farm (Pty) Ltd managing director Sean O’Connor has been in the cut flower industry for 19 years and said it is definitely shrinking.

“More and more South African flower growers are falling out every year. When your market is shrinking for all the negative economic reasons we are seeing here today, and your costs are increasing exponentially, your bottom line is getting thinner and thinner.

“Unless you manage to keep your costs down or if you are growing a product that is viable to export such as Proteas, which allow for the income of stronger Forex currencies. It is obviously becoming tougher and tougher to stay in business here,” said O’Connor, who runs four hectares of intensive cut flower production under plastic focusing on Anthuriums, Gerberas and Ruscus in Shaka’s Rock.

He said all of their flowers are sold to a wholesaler in Durban, who then sends them around the country.

His neighbour, Rob Tucker of LIV Flowers is facing the same issues and said they are fighting a losing battle.

“We have got a bad model – all our input costs such as the fertiliser and plastics are dollar based and we import the seedlings from Holland paying in euros.

“When you are earning in rand, you just can’t compete and the ever changing exchange rate constantly messes us around,” said Tucker, who supplies Woolworths with Gerberas and sends his Ruscus and Anthuriums to Johannesburg for distribution.

“The rose industry has almost totally collapsed and the others are not far behind. Our consumers are emigrating and we get no support from the government.”

Darnall’s Kim Hageman has been in the Gerbera, fern and rose cut flower business for over 30 years and agreed that all cut flower producers are in a tough situation.

“Like all other luxury commodities, a tight economic environment affects us first,” said Hagemann.

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  AUTHOR
Elana Geist
Journalist

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