Quality in times of COVID-19June 12, 2020
The following is a review, regarding the quality in times of Covid-19 and its imact on flower industry.
At the beginning of the pandemic in Ecuador, the Government announced suspension of almost all work activities, commercial flights and usual transportation inside the country. All flower growers became over-alarmed: 95% of the farms gave their employees vacations and fired people, by taking advantage of the laws that allowed them to fire workers for force majeure.
ECONOMIC IMPACT ON FLOWER FARMS
Besides a serious impact on the companies, it also had a serious impact on the staff. As the number of workers decreased, so did the care and attention each plant received. Next, when sales reduced, the commercial departments asked to cut only a certain number of stems per variety, so as not to generate overtime and therefore extra expenses.
All these actions resulted in a drastic reduction of flowers on the market, because by not cutting the flower for commercial use, but in order to preserve the mother plant, the farms were forced to do the pricking process (cutting the producing plants to their minimum height to stop production for a few weeks).
MORE NEGATIVE CHANGES
Usually, producers renew 8-10% of the total number of plants each year to introduce new varieties and also to rejuvenate the greenhouses with new plants, replacing those that have completed their life cycle. But in the context of the virus crisis – the farms did not renew their plants, they simply stopped production in the greenhouses intended for renewal.
Furthermore, the farms have been very affected by the hard recovery of the accounts receivable portfolio, economic adjustments were made: such as salary reduction up to 30%, reduction in material, chemical and packaging expenses. Plants stopped receiving fertilizer and disease/pest control, which seriously affected their quality.
WHAT QUALITY RECEIVES THE CUSTOMER
Customers, also affected by the crisis, in their great majority prefer to keep the money in their accounts, rather than paying the supplier, no matter how many calls or notifications of collection they receive. Without paymens, lack of money affects the farms’ solvency and becomes a cycle of serious problems, described at the beggining of the review. The most vulnerable link will always be the producer and the evidence of such affectation will always be the quality of the flower.
When the flower is cut and packed – it still looks quite good, but when it arrives at the final customer, the flower shows a very noticeable drop in quality. It arrives rotten and damaged, because the farms no longer control the dissipation of fungus, diseases and agricultural pests as before.
CONCLUSION AND RECOVERY
So the farms are facing not only an economic crisis, but also a quality crisis in their production. In the last few weeks, the floriculturists who managed to overcome the hardest blow of the quarantine – have started to recover, hired some staff again, used more chemicals in the post-harvest area, but the problem of diseases and pests still persists.
Currently the export reduced a lot, and from the little export that still remains – there are a lot of dissatisfied customers, the quality they are now receiving is very low, due to a lot of flower damaged by Botrytis.
As High Control Group – we try to promote an idea to the farms – the quality must be impeccable now. If they used to sell very good quality flowers, now it has to be always Highest Premium Quality Flower. The only purpose of this idea is creating a loyalty link between the customer and the flower producer. It is absolutely important that Ecuadorian flower does not lose its status of the Best Flower in the world and does not become a flower of “unstable quality” in the medium and long term.