Dutch tulip farmers who have been forced to cut flowers early because of selfie-taking tourists defying quarantine will benefit from a 600 million EUR support package unveiled by the government.
Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten said in total they would make 650 million EUR (567 million GBP) available, with 600 million EUR (523 million GBP) available for the flower growers and food crops, with the remaining 50 million EUR (43.62 million GBP) going to potato growers.
She said: “Certain sectors were not helped with the emergency package that the cabinet has previously presented. We are dealing here with companies that are in a unique situation. You cannot just stop cultivation. As a result, the companies have ongoing fixed costs. ”
She said that flower bulb growers normally make their entire turnover in March, April and May, and that this income was now almost completely lost due to the corona crisis. She said farmers will have to write off the first 30 percent of any loss, and the remaining 70 percent would be reimbursed by the government.
Dutch flower bulbs are sold around the world but the market has collapsed under the current restrictions leaving many farmers in financial hardship.
The flower sellers were in the spotlight over the weekend when it was revealed they were forced to behead their flowers early before the bulbs have been properly tested because so many people were turning up to take selfies, breaking quarantine rules.
Local police said they had tried putting up barriers, roadblocks manned by police officers and chasing people away with drones and megaphones, but none of it had worked.
As a result, tractors started beheading the flowers in Holland’s famous Bollenstreek region, which translates as the bulb region, before the crop was ready.
The Bollenstreek region which is located between Leiden, The Hague and Haarlem includes the cities of Lisse, Hillegom, Katwijk, Noordwijk, Noordwijkerhout and Teylingen and is the heart of the countries parable industry.
At this time of year when the flowers are fully in bloom it attracts traditionally large numbers of tourists. This year they were told to stay away, but many ignored that and now farmers have been the beheading the flowers early in order to prevent further visitors.
The flowers are usually beheaded later so that the tulip can use its energy in developing the bulb and making it healthy instead of wasting energy on the flower. The bulb is then harvested and sold.
Normally they take their time, each flowers checked for viruses or mildew to ensure the quality of export, with certificates needed for imports in many countries around the world show their healthy, and by hurrying the process in order to discourage tourists, there are many places they will now no longer be able to sell the bulbs in an already difficult market.
Flower farmer Simon Pennings from Noordwijkerhout confirmed they were rushing the process so that the flowers in the field disappeared, “making them less attractive”.
He said that because of the quarantine rules they had “expected to have a quiet Easter, but it was far from it”. He added: “We put barriers around the fields on Saturday, and the council closed roads but half an hour later the people were back in the fields.”
A spokesman for the local councils in Lisse and Hillegom confirmed that other flower growers were doing the same thing, saying: “Normally they leave the flowers for as long as possible to let everyone enjoy them, but the growers now want to do something to fight the corona virus and the visitors in the area.”
They added: “Normally we have to inspect the flowers before we head them. That is because a certificate is required for export to certain countries, stating that the colour is good and that the flowers are healthy. We had to skip that inspection by heading the flowers earlier. As a result, we can export our flowers to far fewer countries.”
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