Tulip event shifted to protect workers

The collective colour of petals is what visitors to an Edendale tulip farm flock to photograph, but this year it will have to be done from a distance due to Covid-19.

Triflor New Zealand operational manager Rudi Verplancke said the pandemic meant the company was unable to bring in overseas specialists who usually came over each year.

Instead it was reliant on its New Zealand workers, and he did not want to take any risks with their health.

"We simply cannot take the risk of exposing that core group of people with an already skeleton crew to having visitors from all over the country.

"That’s why we had to make the hard decision to cancel [opening to the public] this year."

Normally, ahead of harvest each year, the flowers were able to be viewed at a Labour Day open day; this year, the decision was made to instead hold an alternative event at the Edendale Presbyterian Church.

Triflor New Zealand operational manager Rudi Verplancke will have Labour Day off this year for...
Triflor New Zealand operational manager Rudi Verplancke will have Labour Day off this year for the first time in 15 years as the tulip farm’s annual open day was cancelled an alternative event planned in its place. PHOTO: LAURA SMITH

While New Zealand "had a good handle" on Covid-19 at the moment, it had still made things difficult for tulip growers, Mr Verplancke said.

"Covid-19 and the lockdown, that was an interesting time for us. The biggest problem for us was the fact we weren’t allowed to export so we had all our bulbs from last year’s harvest sitting in the sheds."

Just in time, the country went into Alert Level 3, and they were able to export the bulbs.

He said there was a silver lining.

"America has always been our main focus market, and some of the clients started to drop some of the numbers."

This forced the sales team to look into new markets which they were not so strong in.

"They’ve done a fantastic job in that regard. Although the numbers are not massive at this stage, it opened for us good opportunities."

While visitors came to see the tulips, it was the bulbs which were of value and exported.

"Although those flowers look beautiful, that is not our export product ... What we export is under the ground. We export the bulb to commercial flower growers."

About 60million bulbs were likely to be exported this year, of about 35 varieties.

"A lot of the bulbs go to America; they are the bright bold colours.

"Red orange and yellow — they are very important colours for us because the bulbs you see here now will be used next autumn."

laura.smith@alliedpress.co.nz

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