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Flowers from South America

With price, demand and the dollar all down, South America’s growers look to new markets to remain strong.
by Shelley Urban

    Colombian flower grower Ernesto Vélez, who also serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters,  Asocolflores, and Ignacio Pérez, executive president of Expoflores, the Ecuadorean Flower Growers and Exporters Association, both agree that worldwide economic conditions have lowered demand for their fresh-cut flowers and forced lower prices, especially in the United States. At the same time, the dollar has lost value, which, especially for Colombian growers, has meant less local currency to pay expenses. Here’s how the members of these organizations are working to survive—and why it matters to the American floral industry.

fewer flowers on the market
    According to Mr. Vélez, in recent years, 85 percent of Colombia’s fresh-cut flowers were exported to the United States. Today, that number is down and, he adds, “Over the 35 or 40 years that we’ve been supplying the U.S. market, we’ve always seen growth, but the last two years, for the first time, there were decreases in both volume and value of exports. From January to May 2009, compared to the same period of 2008, both volume and value are down about 4.5 percent.”

    In an e-mail interview, Mr. Pérez shared that Ecuador is experiencing a more dramatic drop in demand. “Since 2007, exports to the U.S.A. have decreased.” He explains that, compared to Valentine’s Day 2007, exports for the 2009 holiday were off by approximately 42 percent.

    What this means for America: While Mr. Vélez concedes that farm operation reductions or closures are “painful for the growers and workers,” he also points out that fewer flowers on the market “might be good for the industry as a whole because it means that excess supplies are reduced.”

reaching beyond our borders
    To compensate for lower demand from the U.S., growers in both Ecuador and Colombia are, according to Mr. Vélez, “taking some of the oversupply to other markets.” Confirms Mr. Pérez: “Seeking new markets around the world is one of our main challenges for the next few years.” For now, he adds, “We have to have more presence in flower exhibitions around the world; our main objective is to have a permanent presence.”

    Some of their most sought-after markets include Russia, which Mr. Vélez says has been growing substantially over the last four years or so; Japan; and countries in western Europe, especially the United Kingdom. He also notes that other South American countries are potential markets as well, such as Brazil, where flower consumption is strong, but seasonal conditions prevent year-round production—of which Colombian growers are capable.

    What this means for America: Even if more of their flowers are currently being shipped to other parts of the world, keeping farmers growing in South America ensures that their crops will still be available in the U.S. as demand warrants.

tax-free trading
    Currently, both Ecuador and Colombia are able to trade duty-free with the United States under the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA), which continues to be extended short-term and is valid, for now, through Dec. 31, 2009. Both countries seek permanent trade agreements, which will ensure that fresh-cut flowers (and other goods) can flow freely into the United States.

    “Working to ensure [multiple extensions] is costly for Asocolflores. We visit Washington and meet with Congress and staffers and, ideally, we’d like to have free access to the American market for a long period of time. Our argument,” explains Mr. Vélez, “is that it is a win-win proposition. For example, every $1 that a Colombian grower receives [for product] generates $9 in markups, from Miami on, that stay in the American economy.”

    What this means for America: South American flowers account for a large portion of the U.S. floral market, and the money generated by those products supports America’s importers, wholesalers and retailers. Steady supplies at attractive prices keep consumers interested, further enhancing their value.



developing a country’s image


by Jairo Cadavid

    The Swiss have developed an image with their banks, their watch-making and their chocolates. Germans are recognized for their cutting-edge automobile technology, and the French are recognized for their wines, fashion and perfumes. Likewise, Colombia Land of Flowers® is a brand intended to develop an image for Colombia. The brand was conceived and geared toward positioning our country, within the worldwide flower chain and especially in consumers’ minds, as one that offers a wide variety of
excellent quality flowers that are also grown under appropriate social and environmental standards.

    Internationally, the first steps were aimed at reinforcing brand use to identify Colombian pavilions at major flower shows and exhibitions in the U.S.A., Russia, England, Germany, Japan, Korea, Sweden, France and Hungary among other markets. The brand was also included in all Colombian floriculture promotional pieces and ad campaigns, including those items displayed when representatives from the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters, Asocolflores, have distributed free flowers in major cities around the world.

    The brand will be a hallmark because its use will be authorized on sleeves and boxes solely to those Asocolflores-member companies that comply with quality standards and/or those that collectively approach a potential market. In addition, nationally, the brand has been promoted to develop a sense of belonging within the Colombian population toward a sector that generates jobs and well-being for almost 1 million citizens.





proflora 2009


    This year’s edition of the biennial international cut flower trade fair will be held in Bogotá, Colombia, at Corferias, the city’s international business and exhibition center, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2009. Proflora organizers anticipate that the show, now in its 10th production, will host 1,500 buyers from 40 countries and more than 400 exhibitors, who will offer their fresh flowers as well as goods and services related to the floral trade.

    Highlights of Proflora 2009 include “new varieties” competitions and awards for exhibit design and decoration. New to the show this year is a “Business Matchmaking” forum to encourage one-on-one communication between exhibitors and buyers. For more information about Proflora 2009 and to register for the event, go to


Reach Shelley Urban at or (800) 355-8086.

Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.