THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The coronavirus is forcing Dutch flower growers to compost millions of blooms at what should be the pre-Mothers' Day demand peak, their industry association said, warning that many members could go bankrupt within weeks.
"The market situation is dramatic," Steven van Schilfgaarde, director of Royal FloraHolland, said in a statement, adding that flower prices have nearly halved.
"Last Friday 20% of the supply had to be destroyed because there were no buyers. Forecasts for the next weeks are even worse," he said.
This period is usually peak season for flower sales because of Mother's Day celebrations in the United Kingdom and Ireland on March 22.
FloraHolland usually auctions 30 million plants and flowers a day, worth some 8.8 million euros (7.97 million pounds).
The Dutch floricultural industry employs 150,000 people, and around 35% of global flower and plant exports, worth 6.2 billion euros a year, pass through the Netherlands.
On Friday the Keukenhof flower park, a top tourist attraction in the Netherlands which sees over a million visitors each year, announced it would not open until at least April.
Dutch florist Paul Deckers, who has supplied flowers for the Pope's annual Easter address in St. Peter's Square for the past 34 years, posted on his Facebook page earlier this week that there would be no delivery from the Netherlands this year.
In Paris, around 475 kilometres south of The Hague, some flower stall owners at a market in the upscale 16th arrondissement were still trying to sell their merchandise early on Sunday despite pressure from the police to close down.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Jan Harvey)