A prolonged cold spell in Europe and a rare conjunction of dates in China have combined to wilt the Valentine's Day hopes of rose cultivators in the Hosur region of Tamil Nadu. The two markets together account for 60 to 70 per cent of Hosur's supply, much of it crowded around Valentine's Day, on February 14.
This year, say cultivators from Hosur, the tally of export orders from Europe is nil, compared to last year's 1.2 million roses. The Hosur-Denkanikotta area, which has around 250 government-assisted and 55 privately owned greenhouse cut-flower production units, accounts for 80 per cent of India's rose exports.
A cross-section of cultivators from Hosur, where 42,000 acres of land is under rose cultivation, said that adding to the unseasonable snow in Europe, Valentine's Day this year falls on a Sunday for the first time since 1999, a factor that will also depress demand dramatically.
According to a senior official from Tanflora Infrastructure Park, one of the world's largest rose exporters, offices and places of business are the most common addresses for flower delivery, "possibly because, let's face it, most women love a little public token of their significant other's undying devotion".
Last year, Tanflora alone exported a million roses to Europe for Valentine's Day.
As for China, the problem is that Valentine's Day there coincides with the Chinese New Year, something that has occurred just three times in the past 100 years. The next time the two festivals coincide will be in 2048.
And, a florist explained, consumers tend to spend the first day of the New Year with their families, rather than with their girlfriends or boyfriends, a pattern that inevitably has an impact on demand.
Florists usually receive about 30 per cent of the orders for roses from China two weeks ahead of Valentine's Day. "This year, shop owners are yet to place any orders," said S Krishnaswamy, an exporter to China.
Of course, there's the US, where Valentine's Day is a much more opulent festival. But, location problems make it difficult for Hosur to cater to this lucrative market. Exporters here mostly supply to Europe, China, Japan and Australia.