Shoppers browsing the many vendors at the Rimba Horticulture Centre. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Local floriculturists are seeing an uptick in business during this pandemic, buoyed by a rising interest in horticulture as the nation’s COVID-19 policy responses continue to lure Bruneians away from the outside and into their own homes and gardens.

The Bruneian paid a visit recently to the Rimba Horticulture Centre and despite being a work day, the premise was bustling with activity as plant enthusiasts old and new, wander from one stall to another, surveying the floral offerings on display.

One of the vendors, Siti Zainun Tawang said that since the sultanate closed its borders, her stall and the centre in general, has seen a great number of new customers, mostly individuals who are just starting to dip their toes into horticulture.

Vendor at Rimba Horticulture Centre, Siti Zainun Tawang tending to her plants at Rimbun Horticulture Centre. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman
Plants for sale at Rimbun Horticulture Centre. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Sales have gone through the roof, according to the 55-year-old with customers hauling bags of soil and ground cover plants, hoping to spruce up their yards as working from home became the new normal for a large segment of the populace.

Some, she added, are taking advantage of this extra time at home to rehabilitate their garden, recovering old and ailing plants with a dose of new soil and fertilisers.

“On an average month, I would earn about hundreds or up to a $1,000, but since during this coronavirus phase, in March alone I managed to earn up to $3,000,” said the floriculturist.

Vendor at Rimba Horticulture Centre, Siti Zainun Tawang receiving a delivery of fertilizer at Rimbun Horticulture Centre. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“It’s the same for us all across the board, ask any vendor here and they will tell you that business has been good during this pandemic,” she added.

This rings true for Jumaini Hj Saban, who also noted the wide demographic of individuals that are now frequenting the horticulture centre.

“It’s not just locals, there are a lot of expatriates and foreign workers coming by looking to purchase some plants,” she said, adding that due to their inability to return home, many have chosen to take on gardening as a hobby to wait out the pandemic.

Bouganvillea plants for sale at Rimbun Horticulture Centre. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman
Vendor at Rimba Horticulture Centre, Jumaini Hj Saban serving a customer at her stall. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“Besides soil, fruits and vegetable plants in particular are really in demand now, because many (people) are looking into starting their own vegetable gardens at home,” she explained.

From calamansi, chillies, eggplants and other leafy vegetables, these new customers become regulars in their own right, according to Jumaini, making a stop at her stall almost every week to add on to their thriving home vegetable gardens.

“Most have already experienced harvesting food from their garden,” added the 58-year-old.

Plants for sale at Rimbun Horticulture Centre. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman
Adenium plants for sale at Rimbun Horticulture Centre. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Despite the windfall blowing through the entirety of the Rimba Horticulture Centre, vendors have also expressed some concerns primarily in the inability to bring in new horticultural stocks.

“A lot of us do import plants from countries like Malaysia and Thailand (and) some get their new stocks from across the border like Miri or Kota Kinabalu (but) with the travel ban, none of us will be able to get in new plants anytime soon,” said Hjh Saran Hj Lamit.

According to the 62-year-old who primarily deals in high value and in-demand ornamental foliage plants like the monstera and the philodendron, it is a concern that all of them share as many have resorted to selling their own propagation as their new stocks deplete completely.

Vendor at Rimba Horticulture Centre, Hjh Saran Hj Lamit seen attending to a customer. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“I don’t think we’ll completely run out of plants to sell because obviously many of us, if we’re able, have propagated the plants that we’ve imported, however they will take a significant time to be mature enough to sell,” she explained.

“I try not to worry too much, because there is nothing that can be done about it, the travel ban is crucial during this coronavirus situation so I guess for the time being, we’ll have to make due with what we have,” she added.

One of Hjh Saran’s plants at the Rimba-based horticulture. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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