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    Unlike 20 or 30 years ago, and due to macroeconomic factors outside our industry’s control, there just isn’t nearly the quantity of fresh flowers being exported from Australia to the US anymore.  With their minimum wage hovering around $25 AUD per hour, and increased import costs driven by fuel surcharges, as well as long periods where the Aussie dollar was quite close in value to the US dollar, a lot of the farms that formerly were oriented towards exports have either retired or shifted their business models.  At this time, our supply chain has fewer than 20 farms supplying a range including Waxflower, Thryptomene Calycina, Serruria, Banksia, Kangaroo Paws, Flannel Flower, Stirlingia, and other miscellaneous crops.  These are all, of course, outdoor-grown and seasonal crops, which the Australians collectively refer to as Native Wildflowers.  I’m very happy to report that our farms have not been affected by the fires, and we anticipate no interruption whatsoever to our ability to supply wholesale florists with the superior quality Aussie products they have come to expect from us.

    Separate from that, however, there are numerous farms throughout Australia – farms oriented towards domestic supply – that have been severely affected.  One in particular, an important supplier for our partner company Wafex Australia, faced a complete loss of crops, pack shed, and their family home.  To help this farm and family rebuild, Wafex Australia has set up a Gofundme and so far many of our friends in the US have been really helpful in providing support. 

    https://www.gofundme.com/f/wafex-flower-grower-bushfire-fundraiser

     

    Beyond that, since most of us are not overly familiar with the domestic Australian industry, a quick summary of the situation would be:

    • Many farms have been affected, especially those on the heels of 4 years of serious drought in New South Wales and Victoria states.
    • Production ranges from roses and other greenhouse crops to native flower farms have been affected, but most particularly native flower farms due to their being located commonly in fire-prone areas.
    • Farmers were pushed to their limit protecting their own properties and those of their neighbors, with support from firefighting services where and when possible, largely dependent on water supply in the area and human resources.  It has been an incredibly trying time for those affected.
    • Some farms are committed to rebuild, while for others this will result in permanent exit from flower production
    • Farms oriented towards export to North American market have been largely unaffected, and we do not anticipate supply issues in the upcoming season at this time
    • Recent rains have mitigated fire spread and allowed for containment, but risk levels are still extremely high and the danger is not yet past
    • Wafex continues to encourage Gofundme donations to benefit affected producers

     

    Much like what we have seen here in California in past years, unchecked wildfires raging through agricultural and residential areas is horrifying to witness, even when it is half a world away.  Dire situations like what they have been experiencing really tend to bring out the best in people, though, and here at Wafex USA we have received a ton of inquiries from people concerned for our Aussie counterparts in the flower business.  It’s very gratifying to see the outpouring of support, and a reminder of how great it is to work in an industry with such fine people everywhere you go.

     

    Steve Dionne
    Steve.Dionne@wafex.com.au

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