Flower farms see their Lunar New Year sales wilted by virus

HONG KONG (AP) — The Lunar New Year holiday is usually a busy period for flower farms in Hong Kong, which gear up to sell plum blossoms, orchids and daffodils at flower markets during the festive season. But the pandemic and restrictions on such festive markets this year has taken a toll on many farms, who worry that they may be left with an oversupply of flowers.

Traditionally, Lunar New Year fairs – known as “flower markets” in Cantonese – are held before the holidays, with thousands of florists and festive goods vendors hawking their wares to the public. This year, the Hong Kong government will implement restrictions on such markets, which can only run at half-capacity and shortened business hours.

The policy has prompted concerns from farm owners like Yeung Siu-lung, who runs one of Hong Kong’s largest orchid farms. To prepare for the festive season, he had grown over 30,000 pots of orchids in 10 greenhouses at Hong Kong’s rural New Territories.

Yeung, who had initially planned to have 16 stalls in flower markets, is now planning alternative arrangements to sell his supply of orchids, including selling them online or encouraging buyers to visit the farms directly.

Lunar New Year is traditionally a boost for some businesses in Hong Kong, especially retail businesses. There is usually a big seasonal sale of festive items such as holiday snacks, gifts and household decorations, which often include flowers.

Flower farms like Yeung typically make about 50% of their profits from the Lunar New Year season alone, according to business analyst Francis Lun.

Pinky Chan is one of Yeung’s customers who drove an hour to his farm to buy orchids. Amid the ongoing pandemic, Chan thought it was still important to create a festive atmosphere amid difficult times.

“We Chinese people feel happier if our homes are filled with red and green during the Lunar New Year,” Chan said. “Because of the pandemic, we are all not very happy, we are not able to meet with our families. So I hope buying a pot of flowers for my parents can make them feel a bit happier.”