The flower production for Valentine’s Day has come to harvest, a week too early, putting farmers in a fix. The early rise in temperatures has forced farms to harvest their flowers starting this week, running the risk of them wilting ahead of exports for Valentine’s Day.
The Taj Mahal variety of roses, produced specially for Valentine’s Day, needs a production period of 52-55 days. Farmers plan the production in December, and harvest by the first week of February.
But this year, a premature rise in temperatures has forced farms to harvest the stems from January 25th. “Usually, the harvest is done between February 4 and 6, and export packing takes place between February 7 and 9. When the buds reach the market before Valentine’s Day, they would have flowered fresh,” said Bala Siva Prasad, president, Hosur Small Farmers’ Federation.
The ideal temperature is 18-28 degrees Celsius, but the day-time temperature was 32 degrees Celsius, leaving no choice for the farmers but to harvest the flowers, said Mr. Prasad.
Cold storage facilities are not seen as a remedy for such an early harvest. Small farmers, who sell their flowers to exporters, prefer cold storage of flowers only for two days or less, from fear of disease transmission in common cold storage.
There is also anxiety about the flower quality, owing to climate change. Short and not-so-cold winter, nil rainfall, and early spike in temperatures have come to affect the quality of flowers, said Bala Siva Prasad. “There was also a brief spell of extreme cold for a week in December, when blind shoots developed,” said Mr. Prasad.
For now, the brief boom in domestic demand, due to Muhurtam season, is helping farmers. The domestic price for a stem is between ₹12 and ₹15 today, which is equal to premium packing (export price).
If the early harvest is expected to impact the freshness of the flowers, affecting the export quality at the time of packaging, 10 days from now, it is possible that the farmers may fall back, solely on the domestic demand, and skip exports.
“I told my buyers in Malaysia not to commit to their customers as of now, and wait till February 6 to gauge the status. If the quality of the harvested flowers fall, then the prices will slump. In this event, we may do well to stay with the domestic market price, which is high due to demand,” said Mr. Prasad.
Against this, the halt to imports of fresh produce from China into Malaysia, the main export market for Hosur’s roses, in the wake of the Coronavirus, just may swing in favour of Indian flower growers, believe farmers here. “But that too hinges on flower quality. Any understanding of the market will be known only after February 6, when we decide on the orders and there is place to gamble,” said the president of the Hosur Small Farmers’ Federation.