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Pandemic shortages are a thorny problem for San Diego flower businesses

Flower shop owners, event planners, and anyone in San Diego County just looking to buy flowers and foliage directly from local farms and wholesalers go to the International Floral Trade Center in Carlsbad.

But, as Valentine’s Day looms, people in the business such as Lynda Price see a big problem. “I’ve been doing this for 36 years, and I’ve not seen anything like it,” she said.

Price works for Mellano & Company, a family farm and wholesaler that grows flowers and greens on over 500 acres in Oceanside and Carlsbad and has four wholesale locations.

Pandemic shortages are a thorny problem for San Diego flower businesses

She said demand was high, especially for green filler for arrangements, but “the labor issue — we don’t have enough people to cut our products. … We usually have thousands of extra bunches, and we have been sold out for the last seven days. … We are probably between 12,000 to 14,000 bunches in the hole.”

But the worst problem is with flowers that are flown in from other countries, such as the beloved rose. Most of those sold in the U.S. come from Ecuador.

One of the vendors we met was Rudy, who didn’t want his last name used but did say he was known for his beautiful wholesale roses. He predicted that prices will go up about 30% as the crisis is making it tough to fill orders. “Even though there’s a big supply available at the source, there’s no way to get it to market. … There’s a lot of losses because product gets to its destination and it’s not in very good condition. … It forced me to get to the point where I’m not taking any orders or booking anything — I’m doing it day by day,” he said.

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Pam Veary works for Allen’s Flowers and Plants, which has several locations in San Diego. “It’s been a struggle because not only is it affecting us: It’s affecting everybody,” she said. She said folks should take time before the Super Bowl to place an order for their Valentines. “We’re encouraging people to order early and get deliveries early just because of the flower shortage in case, we don’t know,” she said.

Price said she felt blessed that the company continues to thrive, but the pandemic has cost the floral industry billions of dollars. Still, she remains hopeful, saying: “It’s been a very unusual, you know, since 2020. We’ve never seen anything like it and hope that it comes back to normal, whatever that means.”