Workers of the flower farm put reserved roses for a client’s urgent order into a cart to dump them at the Bliss Flora farm in Nakuru. Credit: AFP Photo In Amsterdam’s suburbs, the forklift trucks have already resumed their incessant loading of crates of flowers as the Netherlands’ horticulture giants get back to deliveries across the globe after the coronavirus lockdown.

Every day, the Netherlands’ massive flower industry sells tonnes of French flowers to French consumers, just one sign of years of Dutch dominance of the globalised market.

But as the pandemic pushes consumers to look more locally, French flower growers are hoping to break Dutch hegemony by selling home-grown produce with less of an impact on the climate as part of the so-called "slow flowers" movement.

Started in the United States as a way to promote local farm and flower produce, the movement is growing as it supports local economies and ethical producers in a shift away from industrialised commerce.

Figures vary, but executives at French affiliate of Dutch giant FleuraMetz estimate 70 percent of the world’s flower production now makes its way through Holland, even produce that is not grown on Dutch soil.

"We sell 30,000 different varieties," said Michel Van Schie, spokesman for Royal Flora Holland, another Dutch horticulture giant.

The Netherlands’ love of horticulture dates back centuries — and even caused the first stock market crash in the 17th century when speculation over tulip bulb prices caused prices to soar, only to later collapse.

The country’s domination of the market accelerated in the 1950s with the creation of large cooperatives that helped market sales.

The Netherlands "has been able to organise itself to market the flower, by concentrating production, by concentrating logistics, by creating cooperatives which made it possible to facilitate marketing," said Thierry Louveau, an executive at FleuraMetz’s French unit.

The Dutch state still subsidises energy consumption by Dutch flower greenhouses.

Part of their success has been the reliance on relocated production in the southern hemisphere, where growers have access to sun and cheaper labour all year round.

In Kenya, for example, flowers are shipped back to the Netherlands before being distributed to markets everywhere.

In the African country, "the sector directly employs 200,000 people on farms and represents more than a million jobs, supporting four million people," Clement Tulezi, president of the Kenya Flower Council told AFP.The Dutch industry has developed an extremely efficient logistics system with trucks crisscrossing Europe, making it difficult for rivals to compete with its floral giants."There are flowers produced in France that leave for Amsterdam and return to France," says Benjamin Perot, one of the co-founders of Monsieur Marguerite, an eco-responsible florist.The Nice tulip, for example, is produced in the eponymous region in south-eastern France, but can be shipped to the Netherlands where it is evaluated before returning to France, explains Hortense Harang of the "Flowers From Here" association.Faced with this competition, many French flower growers go out of business or adapt their business model.The French floral trade association, Val’Hor, estimates that 85 percent of France’s flowers are now imported."In […]