South Africa is different from other African countries. It has a different history and because of that, it has always had a relatively large upper and middle class capable of buying flowers. On the other hand, South African wages cannot compete with those in East Africa. How does this influence the South African flower business?
Approximately 50 million people live in South Africa, most of whom are poor. Some 8% of them enjoy the highest incomes and some 25% belong to the up-and-coming middle class. This means the majority cannot afford to buy flowers but there is a growing number of people who can. This is good news for the floral business. Although you will find the largest number of flower buyers in the highest tax brackets, the middle class are gradually starting to purchase, as well. The local market is growing although it is difficult to convince young South Africans to buy flowers. This is a world-wide problem, but the added challenge for South Africa is that it has no equivalent to the Flower Council of Holland. Although there is some flower promotion, it is only done on an individual basis.
Flowers in South Africa are mainly purchased for special occasions. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Secretary Day, birthdays, marriages, funerals and other special occasions are popular, but far fewer flowers are bought for normal day-to-day use.
Roses, Chrysanthemums, Lilies, Lisianthus and Gypsophila are among the most popular flowers in South Africa. Summer flowers, mainly grown in the Johannesburg region, are also popular and locally grown Proteas and Fynbos foliage are desirable, as well.
The South African production of flowers and foliage is doing quite well. Flowers nowadays are mainly grown in greenhouses. The water being used comes from wells or rainwater. The Johannesburg region is ideally located for greenhouse flowers. Johannesburg has an auction, Multiflora (South Africa’s only flower auction), that encompasses 20% of local sales. Many growers also choose to sell directly to wholesalers and supermarket chains.
Although its business is relatively healthy, South African floral production has its challenges. South African rose growers have strong competition from their East African counterparts who benefit from lower wages and better climate for the cultivation of roses. Production in South Africa is roughly 30% lower than in Kenya or Ethiopia.
South Africa has a wide range of floral exports, traditional flowers grown in the northern territories and Protea and Fynbos foliage, mainly grown in the Cape Province. But these products need a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and damp winters. However, in recent years the Cape Province has suffered from long, dry periods. The only considerable production of Leucospermum is in the eastern part of South Africa, in KwaZulu Natal.
South Africa really is different from other African countries in that it has a floral history and people have been cultivating and buying flowers for decades. It has a real, local flower market and considerable local production. Though not without its issues, South African floral production does appear to have a solid future.