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“The period is catastrophic for flowers”, laments the president of the Union of horticulturalists of Loiret, in the middle of an epidemic of coronavirus

“Horticultural companies will lose 80% of their annual turnover,” says Jean-Marie Fortin on Franceinfo.

“The period is catastrophic for flowers and the sale of horticultural products”, laments Saturday April 4 Jean-Marie Fortin, president of the Loiret horticulturalists' union. While spring is here, the sun is shining and it is the sowing and planting period for a large number of plant species, the time has come for containment. This could lead to a serious crisis in the horticultural environment which “risk of disappearing” without state intervention, says Jean-Marie Fortin.

>> Find the latest information on the containment and the Covid-19 epidemic in our live

franceinfo: How does confinement for the horticultural environment translate?

Jean-Marie Fortin: It's very simple, the period is catastrophic for flowers and the sale of horticultural products. Today, with the good weather that we have, it is the whole period of sale of horticultural products that should normally be done. But that is not the case because all the horticultural product sales centers are closed. Between March 15 and the end of May, we make 80% of our turnover. It therefore means that horticultural businesses will lose 80% of their annual turnover, which will completely destructure our businesses financially and jeopardize their existence.

Secretary of State to the Minister of Economy Agnès Pannier-Runacher announced that plants and seeds, when used for food, were considered essential. Is horticulture affected by this announcement?

If we admit that everyone can eat flowers, yes, but that is not the case today. We have an authorization from next week to sell vegetable plants. But all flower production is prohibited for sale. And the problem is that we can't store these plants. Geraniums, petunias and impatiences are plants that have a short life expectancy in our production greenhouses. This means that they will be thrown away two weeks after the scheduled sales period.

Is it possible to simply shift the seedlings back in time?

No, we can not. We have a seasonality that is very regular from year to year, from March 15 to the end of May. And if we do not sell during this period, we will not sell during the summer since it is rather the holiday period, people are no longer at home. The garden is really done between March 15 and the end of May. The nursery plants will be able to be reworked and sold in the fall, but on the other hand, all bedding plants, all flowering plants that we have, what we call horticultural plants, are completely destroyed.

Are you counting on next year to go up the slope?

This is all we hope for. But today, I know that the producers, who are passionate people, live very badly what is happening today. Losing 80% of your annual turnover is like everyone losing ten years of salary in three months. It is an economic disaster. I heard President Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe who said that no business should stay on the ground. So I dare to hope that horticulture, which is a labor-intensive sector, will be protected and maintained. One thing is certain, if the state does not intervene in the long-term operation of our businesses, the horticultural sector is likely to disappear in six months. National solidarity will have to work in our favor. But also that the public authorities can meet our expectations.

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