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Roses are dead, lovers are blue: The climate threat to Valentine’s Day roses

Roses are dead, lovers are blue.

Each year, we experience a Valentines Day filled with expressions of love, boxes of chocolate and an endless amount of flowers.

In fact, It's estimated that over 80 million stems of roses are sold globally for Valentine’s Day.

However, climate change now poses a threat to the growth of the romantic blooms all over the world, including places like Kenya, Columbia and The Netherlands.

Image credits and information i
Credit: Silvano Yokwe
Luka Achor Awac, 49, and his mother-in-law Awal Upan, 50, with their sorghum harvest.

I am very concerned about the impact of climate on rose growing in Kenya. We’ve seen increased disease pressure due to unusual weather patterns – sometimes we have excessive hot weather which sees a jump in the number of pests, and other times unusually low temperatures which increases fungal infections, reducing yields.

- Patrick Mbugua, General Manager, Wildfire Flowers, Kenya.
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What countries have been impacted?

59% of all exported roses come from five countries in the global south which face growing dangers from extreme weather.

  • 19.10%

    come from Kenya.

  • 21.20%

    come from Ecuador.

  • 12.40%

    come from Colombia.

  • 5.10%

    come from Ethiopia.

  • 1%

    come from Uganda.

The English rose is under threat too

The British love of roses is well known, with the UK currently sitting as the 4th largest importer of roses in the world.

However, climate change also poses a threat to those grown at home. On average, rose plants in the UK now start to flower about a month earlier than would have been seen as recently as the mid-1980s, due to increased average temperatures across January to April.

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Two smiling Calstock group members pose at their garden party stand Credit: Ian Courtis
Two smiling white women (left, wearing a pink coat, right, wearing a green coat), pose at their garden stand against a leafy backdrop

Roses are a special part of the Valentine’s Day tradition but with many of them grown in parts of the world vulnerable to climate change, their future is far from rosy. These blooms bring joy, and are a vital income for growers in the global south, yet these livelihoods are endangered by the rising carbon emissions and the seemingly endless pursuit of fossil fuels from rich nations like the UK. We need to see far more urgent action from governments to invest in renewables and also commit the needed climate finance to help farmers adapt to a climate crisis they did almost nothing to cause.

- Osai Ojigho, Director of Policy and Public Campaigns at Christian Aid.
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