A second generation Italian-Australian flower farm is dumping fresh flowers by the thousands, as coronavirus measures postpone weddings and events.
Flower grower Stephen Pellizzer has worked on the family farm at Glenorie, north of Sydney, all his life.
His family migrated from Italy and his father worked as a market gardener before buying the rural property to grow roses 50 years ago. The Pellizzers now have 12 hectares under cultivation.
Autumn is one of their busiest times of year with 40,000 rose bushes in bud, ready to cut for Easter and Mother’s Day.
But this year, Stephen Pellizzer is dumping bunches by the dozen, destroying around $5,000 dollars worth of fresh flowers each week.
“I took these flowers to the Flemington markets this morning,” he told SBS News while throwing fresh cut roses into a wheelie bin.
“And I couldn’t sell them, so out they go. All flowers have a use-by date.”
“We cut roses every day and people expect them to last, so you can’t keep them for even a few days.”
Mr Pellizzer runs Dumont Rose Gardens with his sister Diana. He is also treasurer of the Flower Growers Group of NSW.
He said many florists have closed their doors after bans were imposed on weddings, funerals and corporate events due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia.
“The Sydney Markets are not even at half capacity at the moment, and the majority of flowers are being thrown out.”
Nationally, floriculture production is valued at $250 million annually across almost 800 producers. While losses are mounting up now, Mr Pellizzer says growers aren't yet in full production for Mother's Day.
“In a few weeks' time our business alone could be throwing out $20,000 a week of flowers,” he said.
“We’ve been through hailstorms, drought, and fires, but nothing, nothing compares to this as far as the business is concerned.”
Mr Pellizzer said many growers impacted by bushfires are now struggling once more due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“I feel for growers I know whose farms were burned. They [won’t be able to] recover until spring, or even the end of the year. So how they’ll survive, I have no idea.
“With thousands and thousands of dollars invested into this industry, now growers have to shut for six months.
He said some farmers are leaving blooms to die in the fields, others are ploughing plants back into the ground.
“So crops are just being lost. You could be growing an annual crop for two months and get to picking stage and just walk away from it.
“I can see many farms closing down.”
Mr Pellizzer is also an agent for smaller interstate flower growers but has stopped those orders completely.
He said he fears for the farm's nine workers, most of them local families, but thinks Prime Minister Scott Morrison is doing a good jobs and hopes the new JobKeeper subsidy will help save them.
“I think ScoMo is doing a great job, I would like to shake his hand,” Mr Pellizzer said with tears in his eyes.
The government’s new $130 billion wage subsidy allows businesses to pay their employees $1,500 each a fortnight over the next six months.
Mr Pellizzer's wife Linda is a florist and sells his flowers through her business, Dural Flower Farm Florist. Ms Pellizzer said online orders are booming.
“We have quite a lot of orders for birthdays. And people are sending bouquets to nursing homes.
“A lot of elderly people are housebound or stuck in nursing homes, which makes it really lonely for them. So to have a beautiful bunch of flowers delivered, I really think it makes their day.”
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