Costa Rica farmers destroy flowers as coronavirus spoils exports

Costa Rican flower farmers have started destroying the lilies, roses and chrysanthemums they have lovingly tended to for months after the coronavirus outbreak led to the suspension of flights to markets in the United States and Canada.

"This was our work. We have grown and cared for them since they were seeds," said Cristian Quiros, a worker at the Flores y Verdes del Irazu farm in the central city of Cartago. "Now we have to throw them away, and it's such a difficult feeling."

The coronavirus has spread to over 200 countries and territories, killing over 53,000 people by Friday morning and threatening the livelihoods of millions of others who are struggling to make ends meet.

William Quiros, owner of the flower farm, estimated that Costa Rica's sector has lost 10 million U.S. dollars in the past two months alone from not being able to sell cut flowers, and 25 million dollars in total when factoring in lost sales of other types of flowers.

March and April are usually the top months in revenue terms for flower farms in Costa Rica, one of the largest exporters in the Americas, with Mother's Day in the United States generating peak demand.

Quiros said his workers are now cutting the flowers anyway because growing them would deplete the soil of nutrients. But their hours and pay have been reduced significantly.

"They can at least buy food and survive while waiting to see what will happen," Quiros said, adding he was worried about how long it would take for things to return to normal. "We don't know when this will end."

Pablo Leyton, another farm laborer, said he previously worked 48 hours a week, being the main bread winner for his family. Now his working hours have been halved to 24 hours.

"It's difficult for me to take so little home to my family," he said.

(All photos via VCG)

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Source(s): Reuters