Scarcity and Mother’s Day drive up flower prices in Japan
Last-minute rush demand for Mother’s Day carnations

Author: Ron van der Ploeg

TOKYO, Japan: Ryoji Kato, executive manager of Japan’s largest flower auction OTA Floriculture Auction, reports restrictions on movement to contain the coronavirus pandemic have disrupted the critical Mother’s Day season. Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted a state of emergency in 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures but left it in force in Tokyo and Osaka.

Referencing a recent newspaper article published by The Japan Agricultural News, Kato says, “Seven representative flower auctions in Japan submitted price information over the 15 April – 13 May period. Prices peaked with a median price of 71 yen per stem on 6 May, and this positive trend continued over the following six consecutive days. The figures are correct and to all outward appearances they look fine, but under the surface supply volumes are much lower. In chrysanthemums, for example, supply volumes were down 50 per cent from last year. Supply volumes of cut foliage from Sri Lanka and Malaysia were 70 per cent lower from last year due to a lack of air cargo capacity.”

From 1 May many florist shops reopened their business amid a state of emergency, and that caused last-minute rush demand for Mother’s Day carnations. However, a lack of cost-effective options for shipping carnations from Colombia to Japan caused an imbalance of Japanese and imported carnations with supply volumes down 80 per cent from last year. Overall, Mother’s Day sales in Japan have been good in terms of price setting. But the price hike was mainly triggered by limited supply volumes.”

OTA auction spots a new trend when it comes to carnations. Kato explains, “Mother’s Day demand was highly concentrated on red carnations while demand for different colours such as white was very weak. That is because more people ordered their Mother’s Day flowers online with e-florists mainly sticking to the traditional bouquet of red carnations. At the same time,   brick-and-mortar stores usually sell a much wider array of flower sizes and colours. The online flower shop will continue to gain popularity.”

Kato adds that while local flower shops were closed during the lockdown, the sector rolled out its ‘May is Mother’s Month’ campaign. Backed by the Japan Flower Promotion Association, affiliating nine flower associations and headed by our CEO Mr Isomura Nobuo, ‘May is Mother’s Month’ promotions are still going on at local flower shops.”

Generally speaking, demand for flower and plants is still weak in Japan down 60 per cent from what it is under normal circumstances. This figure is mainly due to a drop in demand from corporate clients demand and wedding and event planners, on the positive side the home-use of flowers is increasing. The government’s stay-home request let people buy flowers to decorate them at home or to enjoy gardening at their small balconies. I want to stress that the industry also sees the influx of brand-new customers, people who never had bought flowers and plants. Moreover, it seems that people focus more on connections between individuals facing with the threat of the coronavirus, and people get to express more actively or proactively their gratitude to others. I suppose the stronger demand for flowers for Mother’s Day this year reflected such a trend. I expect the role of flowers to be more prominent in a new kind of normality.”

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