March, which marks the end of the academic and business year in Japan, is usually one of the busiest periods for the flower industry, with surges in demand for graduation ceremonies at schools, send-off parties and weddings.

But this year the spread of COVID-19 is causing large gatherings to be canceled nationwide, leaving farmers with massive inventories of flowers and lowering prices for what can be sold. Flower shops, along with the government, have been compelled to think of new initiatives to boost consumption.

In an effort to help farmers, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is calling on the public to send flowers on Saturday, or White Day in Japan, when men who received chocolates from women on Valentine's Day on Feb. 14 are customarily expected to give a gift in return.