Growing gerberas in a volatile market

Imbali Cut Flowers has fetched top prices for its gerberas (also known as Barberton daisies) at the Multiflora Flower Market in City Deep, Johannesburg, for at least three decades. Apart from the quality of its flowers, Imbali is well known for its unique presentation, which features a curved cardboard sheet with holes to hold the flowers. This type of packaging is easy for the buyer to transport and is a popular seller.

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A big player, but a smaller market
According to Henkel, gerberas are not as fashionable as they were when her father started farming. And indeed, judging by this author’s experience of the Multiflora Flower Market, it is difficult to disagree. In the 1990s, approximately eight gerbera growers sold their produce at the market. Today, just two growers are present on a regular basis, and one or two others appear occasionally at the morning auction. Imbali, a mainstay of gerbera production in South Africa, has a row of trolleys on the market every day.

Imbali is a second-generation family business based in Olifantsfontein, near Centurion in Gauteng. It is managed by Tania Henkel, whose father, Marcus, started the business on its present site (an inherited property) in 1988, giving up a career in architecture to do so. He has since retired. Henkel is a qualified industrial psychologist and, like her father, also gave up a professional career to pursue farming.

Like so many other businesses, Imbali was hit hard by the COVID- 19 lockdowns and at one point, didn’t send gerberas to the market at all. “The cost to get the flowers to the market and pack them wasn’t worth the money we were getting for the flowers, with the low demand for flowers during the initial stages of lockdown.