Well, it is now a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global population. We have never experienced anything like it, on such a global scale, in our lifetimes. Here in the UK we recently passed the sad milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID and globally the World Health Organisation reports over 2.2 million deaths. So many lives have been touched and still many are living in fear.
One year ago it felt like the ornamentals industry was looking down a black hole from which it would struggle to return. Images of flowers being thrown away and closed retail stores are etched on our memories. For some businesses in our sector the impact has been severe and all have had to adapt.
But, it has not all been bad news. The fact is that for many growers and plant retailers 2020 was a good year and for some a very good year! During lockdowns digital channels to market quickly evolved and for millions of people, who effectively became trapped in their homes, the importance of green, plants and flowers was finally realised.
AIPH’s virtual conference in September was entitled ‘Recovery from Crisis’, but as the speakers from many countries began to share their experiences it quickly became clear that this industry was bouncing back already and looking positively towards the future, especially in those markets where leisure spending by consumers is key. Those reliant on events, like weddings and conferences, have been hit harder but even there the ‘catch-up’ sales after the pandemic are keenly anticipated.
As Natalie Porter has mentioned in her FCI columns, we have been given new consumers for our products. Those that have found plants and flowers have enhanced their lives through lockdown are now looking at what they do next. Many countries are facing the prospect of entering Spring with populations prevented from travelling and having to focus on their own back yards. 2021 has the potential to be a very good year for many growers but the important task for all of us now is to work out how we will keep these new consumers; how we will feed their new-found appetite for plants and how we will keep the importance of greening our cities and our lives high on everyone’s agenda.
I am pleased that through FCI we have been able to keep you up-to-date on all that is happening in our global industry. Although we have missed meeting each other at exhibitions and we all get a bit tired of calls by Zoom or Teams it is clear that we have all learned so much through this exceptional year. One year ago we thought that by now the pandemic would be ancient history. It’s still with us but the end is in sight. Let’s keep focused on driving this industry forwards and emerging stronger, having learned many lessons on the way.
About the author
Tim Briercliffe is Secretary-General of AIPH.