GUWAHATI: Say it with a bunch of fresh ‘Dutch’ red roses this Valentine’s Day!

Constrained and a tad demoralised after sales nosedived during multiple waves of COVID-19, florists across the Northeast are now bracing up for a surge in demand for the blooms, as the urge to splurge among young and old couples is set to touch an all-time high, the trends before V-Day suggest.

Among the top picks will be the red roses and to a lesser degree the other coloured roses, chrysanthemums, Oriental lilies, orchids and carnations.

Meanwhile, Zopar Exports Private Ltd, the leading flower supplier in the Northeast, is looking to bring home the freshest of flowers at value-for-money rates to customers in the region.

The interiors of a branded flower and gift retailer in Guwahati

“We are bringing in about 10,000 bunches (20 flowers per bunch) of the Dutch variety of red roses from Pune and Bengaluru only to meet the retail demand for Valentine’s Day this time, which is the highest since the past decade and a half,” Noor Mohammad, general manager of Zopar Exports Private Ltd, told EastMojo here on Saturday.

The firm has exported huge quantities to overseas countries for Valentine’s Day since February 6 onwards. “Apart from exports, a shipment of flowers has been sent to Agartala and Imphal today,” he informed.

Like all business, the pandemic has hit florists hard over the past two years.

“Last year turned out to be a damp squib and florists across the country were left high and dry. But gauging the demand for Valentine’s Day alone, particularly red roses, and to a lesser extent gerbera, carnations and orchids, I can say that the response has been quite unprecedented… we can say the best since the year 2005 when we started the business,” Noor says.

In recent years, Zopar has relocated about 15 to 20 greenhouses (of 500 sq metre each) from Bengaluru to Northeast India, mainly in Aizawl (Mizoram), where the firm is headquartered, and Umsning (in Meghalaya).

Bunch of flowers before delivery to a retailer

“The relocation of infrastructure has cut costs such as air fare and storage and helped us offer the freshest flowers of the season, which have a high demand, at reduced rates to customers,” he said, adding, “Flowers, being perishable commodity, the shipment and storage time of three to four days can at times be too long for retaining freshness.”

Asked why there has been a surge in demand, that too when the pandemic and its variants still loom, Noor says, “Many of our clients have deferred their weddings, celebrations and occasions to the later half of 2021 owing to pre-vaccination risks amid COVID-19 and its restrictions.”

“Now, with weddings and celebrations of multiple seasons pending and accumulating, the demand for flowers of all varieties is bound to shoot up after hitting rock bottom last year,” he said.

On an average, Zopar produces about 10,000 flowers daily in the region, most of which are sold locally. The daily production has been the same as in 2019 owing to multiple waves of the pandemic since 2020. It has seven outlets and three wholesale points across Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Guwahati.

“The COVID-triggered lockdowns affected planting material owing to untimely use of fertilisers/manure besides manpower issues. Growers too had a hard time making ends meet,” Noor said.

Low winter temperatures in parts of the Northeast affect production (delays budding), for which the firm has to procure from outside the region to meet the growing demand.

For consumption in the Northeast, Zopar has to meet a monthly demand of 10 to 12 lakh flowers during November to April (which is the season of weddings and festivals) and between 3 to 4 lakh flowers between May and October.

“Retail prices for red roses this Valentine’s season will range between Rs 800 and Rs 1000 per bunch depending on quality. Our cost per bunch, including airfare, will touch Rs 500,” he said.

Apart from the major player, there are smaller florists who will cater to a demand for about 5,000 bunches this season across the retail points in the region. A florist in Guwahati’s Ulubari area said that the sale of red roses of the Dutch variety in the Northeast is the highest in Guwahati.

“Sales are invariably high on Valentine’s Day in Shillong and Kohima too. Demand also shoots up on occasions such as All Soul’s Day and Mother’s Day in these cities,” he said.

Florists in general expect the demand to be the highest on February 14 (Valentine’s Day). “This time, Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday, the first working day of the week. So we expect the demand to be highest on that day,” a florist at Roses & Aramis in the Silpukhuri area told EastMojo.

Bunches of red roses ready for delivery among retailers at the wholesale point in Guwahati 

“As it is the demand has been higher after lean seasons due to COVID-19. We are offering a rose for Rs 40 this time, which is higher than the price we sold in 2019 (pre-COVID),” he said.

Online sellers, too, are having a field day in the run up to V-Day as clients prefer convenience, prompt and even midnight delivery, coupled with enticing offers.

“Prices are higher than what it used to be, for obvious reasons. Costs are relatively higher this time. But the demand has been high given the string of lean patches in the past two years. We have had more online bookings and store sales for Valentine’s Day,” said a salesperson at a franchise of Ferns N Petals (the country’s largest flower and gifts retailer) in the Christian Basti area here. 

The gift shops here, too, are attracting cupid-struck couples, make no mistake! 

Red heart-shaped pillows, teddy bears, mugs engraved with messages, greeting cards and chocolates of varied flavours are selling thick and fast, for obvious reasons.

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