Covid-19 pandemic: Where does Italy’s ornamental horticulture industry stand one year later?

PADUA, Italy: The actual cost of Covid-19 for Italy’s ornamental horticultural industry differs significantly from the narrative run by the general economy. And to confuse further, the trends in the industry are split between the floricultural sector and the nursery stock industry.

For the economy in general, 2020 closed with a fall in Gross Domestic Product of around 13 per cent. This crisis, together with that of 2008, brought GDP per capita below the levels of 1995.

The current lockdown crisis is even more severe than the previous one, not only because of its greater intensity but also because its origin is exogenous to the world of the economy. The solution can only come from the outside, particularly with the elimination of the virus. Many activities suffer drastic reductions in their turnover as at this stage it is the same market rules that the health emergency has suspended. However, once we overcome this emergency and market rules return, production activities must remain alive to enhance business.

Differentiated losses

The available data confirm less severe falls in the agricultural and agri-food sector than in others. In general, let’s say around one per cent, the same for employment with better dynamics than those of the rest of the economy. It’s a different picture for ornamental horticulture. We face a situation that has seen many losses. In the first period of lockdown, all seasonal products forsaken to the compost. This dire situation continued for cut flowers and flowering plants. Cancelling celebratory get-together ceremonies such as marriages, religious activities, and anniversaries substantially pushed profits down further.

On the upside, the return trends of wellbeing and taking care of gardens and balconies and cut flowers to decorate the home is a positive thing.

Improved market demand

Concerning cut flower and potted plant nurseries, after the great fear of  March and April 2020, things gradually improved. In the second half of the year, the turnover lost in spring almost recovered for the domestic market, with demand coming mainly from garden centres and municipalities starting to develop policy measures to fight climate change, especially in Tuscany, Emilia and Lombardy.

Sales in foreign markets substantially aligned with the figures of 2019, with demand coming mainly from Northern European countries (Holland, Germany, France. There was a decline in demand from southern Europe. The demand from Eastern European countries and Austria remained at the 2019 levels, while market demand from Russia and the Middle East was almost non-existent.

From the market demand point of view, one should note that stocks of medium-large plants are starting to run out as they require a long cultivation period, and prolonged investments in these products are not compatible with the current financial system. But as a result of the short-term growing decisions, young plants and forest plants are also starting to lack. Some species of plants such as: Acer campestre, Acer japonica, Pyrus calleriana, Cercis siliquastrum, Albizia julibrissim, Prunus spp., Osmanthus spp., Liriodendron tulipifera and Quercus ilex begin to be real rarities. In general, the most requested plants are evergreens, shaped plants, ornamental shrubs, roses and fruit plants whose stocks are now running out.

Flormart continues its support

Italy’s premier horticultural trade exhibition Flormart continues to support the activities of the green supply chain through the organisation of a series of initiatives dedicated to the promotion of ornamental horticulture, which will involve all the private and institutional stakeholders of the sector.

From June to September 2021, Fiera di Padova/Flormart will organise ‘Verdecittà’ to support ornamental horticulture in Italy. The Italian Ministry of Agriculture and CREA, Italy’s Council for agriculture research and agricultural economics are the event’s headline sponsors.

Flormart is Italy’s oldest horticultural trade exhibition dedicated to floriculture, nursery stock and landscape architecture organised by Fiera di Padova.

For more information visit

Author: Renato Ferretti.

↑ Back to top