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India: Omicron threat hits horticulture business

For the third year running, flower and fruit sellers and cultivators have faced bad news: Plunging demand, especially during the New Year celebrations which earlier was a time of high sales.Covid-19 put paid to all of that, and the new Omicron variant has only made things worse. Apart from the New Year, Shravana Masam was a good time for flower and fruit sales. But not any longer.

Kadiyam is famous for its nurseries and floriculture and several tonnes of flowers are exported to other states. But, heavy rain including the recent cyclones and floods damaged crops. Flowers are being imported from Chittoor and Bengaluru, and some varieties from Kolkata.

Affecting the flower and fruit trade is the social media campaign against celebrating January 1 as the new year as it is ‘western culture’. Instead, the campaign suggests, only Ugadi should be celebrated as the new year. Some MPs, MLAs, and officials have reportedly appealed to the people to not visit them in person bearing fruits and flowers and greet them online for the New Year, citing Covid-19. This has dealt another blow to the trade.

Kadiyam Flower Traders Association president Gangumalla Nageswara Rao said that 200 tonnes of different varieties of flowers used to be sold earlier but this year it has crashed to 35 tonnes, and the prices have plunged to Rs 150 per kg from Rs 250 last year. He said that the local crop had not come in yet, and the flowers were being imported from Chittoor and some parts of Karnataka, in particular Bengaluru. He said that many wholesalers used to give orders to them prior to the New Year but that did not happen this year, due to the uncertainty over whether festivities would be allowed in the face of the Omicron variant.

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