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Chrysanthemum growers in Japan are increasingly worried about local authorities’ requests for people to refrain from taking trips to their parents’ homes during the Bon holiday period due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Sales of chrysanthemums — mainly white ones — surge in the Bon period, related to Buddhism, when many people visit their hometowns and place the flower in front of their family graves. The coronavirus crisis has changed the landscape this year.

Demand for chrysanthemums has already been slow due to a tendency to scale down funeral services amid the epidemic.

In the central prefecture of Aichi, the largest flower-growing prefecture, white chrysanthemum shipments peaked ahead of the Bon period.

On Tuesday morning, Tadayuki Okabe, 47, loaded freshly cut Sei no Issei brand white chrysanthemums on a truck. The chrysanthemum grower in the city of Hekinan, Aichi, whose father embarked on the business, shipped the flowers in bud form so that they will bloom when they are delivered to customers, mainly in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, in a week.

He grows the flower all year and usually ships about 3,500 of it per day. The shipment volume tops 5,000 in the peak-demand season.

According to an agricultural cooperative in Aichi, the market price of chrysanthemums started falling around March and hit levels of roughly ¥10 per flower at one point.

Prices began to recover ahead of the Bon period, but the highest-quality chrysanthemums, usually priced at around ¥80 to ¥100, are now selling for ¥50 to ¥70.

“Given the current situation, I don’t see any sign of prices recovering” to normal levels, Okabe said.

At the same time, Okabe said, “We can’t survive if we don’t change,” stressing the need to expand the customer base as sales have been staying at only around 30 to 40 percent of the previous year’s levels.

Okabe, who used to sell his chrysanthemums mainly for funerals, has started to target general consumers. He is also considering selling them online.

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