A coffin decorated with flowers awaits collection
A coffin decorated with flowers awaits collection from the undertakers . (Image: Getty)
  • Coffin manufacturers cut short their leave in December to boost output, and that averted trouble.
  • But now flower growers in South Africa are unable to meet soaring demand for funeral use.
  • The gold standard for funerals, chrysanthemums, are getting pricey, if you can find them at all.
  • Roses, though, are available.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

For a while, it appeared that South Africa may have a serious coffin problem.

In December, said Lawrence Konyana, deputy president National Funeral Directors' Association of Southern Africa, coffin manufacturers closed for the holidays just as demand soared thanks to South Africa's second wave of Covid-19 deaths.

The pain was felt mostly, but not exclusively, by the smaller funeral parlours which don't normally stockpile ahead of December.

"Some of the smaller parlours, and even the bigger ones, they didn’t have enough stock and the numbers went up, so they found themselves without any stock. The stock that was with the warehouses and the depots was taken obviously taken up very quickly,” Konyana said.

As numbers continued to rise, manufacturers cancelled their holidays.

"They did start production immediately, and came back about a week earlier, some two weeks earlier and most of them went on double shifts as well to produce enough units,” Konyana said.

That, and quickly shifting stock from less-affected areas to KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, averted disaster.

But the second wave of the coronavirus – combined with earlier efforts to halt the spread of the coroanvirus, has now given birth to a new problem: a lack of flowers.

During the first hard lockdown, millions of flowers went to waste, said Ansen Lamprecht, florist wholesaler and owner of Ansen Flowers, as demand and prices crashed. So cautious producers cut back on planting.

“Now suddenly, from two weeks ago before the real big spike, end of December, the demand is so big," he said. "There are too many funerals, everybody is looking for coffin sprays... [but flower growers] didn’t plant for that."

Suppliers across the country have reported similar trouble.

Lamprecht said the chrysanthemum was the “problem flower”. It is typically used for coffins sprays and is traditionally cheaper than alternatives

Now prices are high, if the flowers can be had at all.

Ansen Flowers is changing its approach to funeral arrangements to include flowers such as roses – normally used at weddings and other events that have been cancelled or down-scaled.

Receive a daily news update on your cellphone. Or get the best of our site emailed to you.

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.