By John Helmer, Moscow
The conflict between Romeo’s Montagues and Juliet’s Capulets went deeper than the scent or the name of flowers, and we know it ended badly for the two of them. That’s to say with white lilies, not roses.
In the Russian market for cut flowers – until recently, the fastest growing in Europe — the war has cut imports by a third in value last year, compared to 2014. The deepest cut of all for exporters was suffered by The Netherlands, whose government has been outspoken in support of European Union sanctions; NATO military movements towards the Russian frontier; and support of the Kiev regime in the investigation of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 disaster.
But wait! is that a Montague and a Capulet bloom, an Italian rose, which has appeared on the Russian market in recent months? Yes, in the December quarter of 2015 the Italians jumped to fourth place in the table of top-5 exporters of cut flowers to Russia with shipments of 66 tonnes, at a value totalling $563,200. They replaced the Dutch. In the comparable quarter of 2014, The Netherlands had ranked number-4 with 560 tonnes worth $4.8 million; at the same time Italy delivered almost no flowers at all to Russia. The explanation, according to Moscow market sources, is that the Italian growers have found a way to avoid the Dutch flower auctions, and ship directly to Moscow.
The aggregate numbers speak for themselves with another meaning. In 2015 the total value of Russian imports of flowers from the top-5 sources came to $215 million. That was a 31% reduction compared to 2014. Imports over the full year from The Netherlands fell by 65% — from $29.7 million to $10.4 million.