Agriculture minister Taku Eto speaks at a news conference Friday, calling on the public to send flowers on White Day this Saturday. | KYODO March, the month marking the end of the academic and business year in Japan, is usually one of the busiest times for the flower industry, with surges in demand for graduation ceremonies at schools, send-off parties and weddings. But this year, flower shops, along with the government, have been compelled to take new initiatives to boost consumption as the coronavirus outbreak has prompted big gatherings to be canceled nationwide, leaving farmers with massive inventories of flowers and hitting them with price declines. In an effort to help farmers, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is calling on the public to send flowers Saturday, or White Day in Japan, when men who received chocolates from women on Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 are customarily expected to return a gift. “Based on our hearings, flower farmers are being hit with falling demand and price declines as events such as weddings and graduation ceremonies are affected by the coronavirus,” farm minister Taku Eto told a news conference last week. “So we have decided to take the lead in promoting purchases of flowers so they can be displayed in homes and offices,” said Eto, who pitched the initiative standing behind a podium with vases full of flowers. The ministry has been displaying flowers at the entrance of its head office in Tokyo and senior officials have been seen wearing flower corsages. Using social media, the ministry is also sharing examples of flower decorations for homes and offices. As many people opt to stay indoors and companies encourage employees to telecommute amid the coronavirus outbreak, florists are hoping the aroma and beauty of flowers will help them relax at home. […]