Mild weather pushes flower prices up 50pc

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2012, 12:00am

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Flower shoppers will have to pay up to 50 per cent more and settle for less attractive blooms during the Lunar New Year holiday - and some growers are blaming weather forecasts.

They say mistakes in the Observatory's forecasts have led them to plant flowers on the wrong schedule, leading to lower yields.

Traders estimate the price of flowers such as the Chinese blossom, chrysanthemum and narcissus will be up to 50 per cent higher than last year.

The Observatory said its winter forecasts had been accurate and denies any responsibility.

Fung Ching, 74, has been growing flowers for more than 40 years. He said peach blossoms at local and mainland farms bloomed two weeks before the festival after the winter turned out to be milder than predicted. He said farmers removed leaves early in expectation of a cold winter that would have inhibited the development of the flowers. Farmers pick the leaves to divert nutrients to the flowers so they open earlier.

'We heavily rely on the modern science of weather forecasting,' said Fung, who owns Choi Lee Nursery in Yuen Long. But an Observatory spokesman said the seasonal forecast for this winter from December to February, had been accurate so far.

Last month was colder than usual with a monthly mean temperature of 16.9 degrees Celsius, 0.9 degrees below the typical December mark of 17.8 degrees. There were six days with a daily minimum temperature of 12 degrees or less in the month, about two days more than normal.

The Observatory predicted early last month that this winter would be cooler due to the La Nina weather pattern.

Fung said he had received about 200 orders for peach flowers ahead of the festival, but said the trees were not as tall, nor as attractive, as in previous years, despite price rises.

Fung, who also buys chrysanthemums for resale, estimated that the supply of flowers in full bloom for this year's festival would be halved, while prices for consumers would rise by 25 to 30 per cent.

At Yiu Kee Gardens, a farm in Shek Kong, owner Lee Yiu said tangerine trees would be 30 per cent more expensive than last year. 'There was not enough rainfall last year and that affected our harvest,' Lee said.

But there was still strong demand for narcissus, he said, despite prices 40 per cent higher than last year.

Sunny Lai Wing-chun, chairman of the Wholesale Florist Association, estimated that flower prices would be 50 per cent higher than last year.