Despite the unusually warm weather in December and the pandemic, daffodil growers are scraping a living off the beautiful flowers.
“The vendors ask me when the daffodil season will be over,” says Ali Zeybek, daffodil producer. “Because when daffodils are in season, all other flowers are eclipsed by their beauty and lovely fragrance, and the vendors cannot sell anything else,” he laughs.
The 43-year old daffodil producer says he has been working with the flowers ever since he was a boy, as his father, Halil Zeybek, has been a daffodil producer for 60 years. “He’s 80 now, and knows much more than I do about daffodils, but we are keeping him safe from harm at home,” Zeybek says of his father, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
He reminds TRT World of the myth of Narcissus, the other name that daffodils are known as. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond (or a well, according to Zeybek), and died there pining for himself, having rejected the advances of the nymph Echo. “After he died a flower sprouted in his spot, and that is the narcissus (daffodil) flower,” he says.
Daffodils, according to Zeybek, are harvested from November 15 until mid-February if the weather is suitably cold. “Daffodils love cold weather,” Zeybek says. “They take their time blossoming and remain budding and fragrant for a couple of weeks after picking.”
“But if it’s like this year, with the southwestern winds (lodos), then we get a smaller crop, and worse quality, too,” Zeybek tells TRT World. “The buds open quicker, the flowers don’t last – that’s when I get complaints from my vendors, and rightly so, too!”
He says that lately there has also been a disease ailing crops. “We change our boots when we come to the fields, in order not to infect the daffodils,” he explains, noting they are very cautious about protecting the daffodil crops.
Gazanfer Yavas, 38, is the President of Karaburun Chamber of Agriculture. He is serving his second 4-year term. “It’s been seven years,” he says.
Asked to comment on the Turkish name for daffodils, he laughs and says in Izmir, where they are grown in Karaburun, they are nergis, while Istanbulites call the flower fulya. “I once had a phone call with a potential client from Istanbul who was asking for fulya, and I told him I have no such flower. After we talked for a while it became clear to me that he was asking for nergis.”
He says this year the daffodil crops were worthless, because of the southwestern winds. “The winds have quickened the flowers to bloom. If it were the northeastern winds (poyraz), that would have halted the bloom [and resulted in a better crop].”
In Izmir’s Karaburun peninsula, Yavas says, there are approximately 160 producers who produced 100,000 bunches of daffodils. “We call 50 stems a bunch,” he clarifies.
In addition to the southwestern wind, this year’s crops were also affected by the pandemic. “Because there is a lockdown in Turkey on Saturdays and Sundays, the flowers were not collected and sold on time. When they were sold, they were sold for below what they were worth, sometimes as low as 10 TL ($1.33) per bunch,” Yavas laments.
In a press release, Karaburun Mayor Ilkay Girgin Erdogan reminds the public that last January, the Daffodil Festival in Izmir’s Karaburun municipality had hosted more than 100,000 visitors: “We would host tens of thousands of visitors from Izmir and from all over our country, while our producers would be able to sell almost all their flowers. But we were unable to organise our festival this year [due to the coronavirus].”
Mayor Erdogan says with the support of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality they were able to distribute 120,000 daffodil bulbs to 60 producers [free of charge], and that it was a very popular event which resulted in more plants being grown.
Because this winter was milder than usual, daffodils flowered earlier than usual and with the combination of fewer sales and lower prices producers were having a hard time.
The mayor calls on all citizens to “buy this beautiful, fragrant flower to support the flower industry and help put food on the table for daffodil producers.”