Down on the (South
South American flower
growers persevere despite slower sales, higher costs and
by Christine Boldt
flowers imported from South America provide U.S. consumers
with beautiful products on a year-round basis. And because
they are now available in many venues, including retail
florist shops, supermarkets, mass markets, drug stores,
convenience stores, etc., consumers can easily purchase
these beautiful products as gifts or for their own enjoyment
Yet most retailers
and consumers do not know where their flowers come from nor
do they know what it costs to grow those flowers. Here are
some data that may shed some light, for both floral
employees and customers alike, on where flowers come from
and why their costs may be changing.
buying fewer flowers
In 2009 there
were more than 5.3 billion stems of flowers imported into
the U.S. Of those flowers, 60 percent came from Colombia, 30
percent came from Ecuador and 10 percent came from the rest
of the world.
Because flowers are
not considered necessities of life, growers in the United
States and throughout the world have felt the impact of the
recession because consumer discretionary spending has been
reduced, and sales volumes have decreased significantly. In
the past, when the U.S. has experienced recessionary
periods, South American growers had the ability to shift
their sales to other countries that were not affected by
America’s financial challenges.
However, this time, the recession goes beyond the
borders of the United States and has had a more global
impact. Therefore, while some markets have expanded and some
new ones have opened for South American growers, floral
consumption, worldwide, remains relatively flat. In
addition, the costs of transporting flowers across greater
distances have also increased, minimizing some of the
benefits of reaching out to new markets.
While sales have decreased due to the global recession,
Colombia has also experienced an even more severe challenge
caused by the devaluation of the Colombian peso, which
results in an unfavorable exchange rate between the U.S.
dollar and the peso. Therefore, when growers are paid in
U.S. dollars, they receive fewer pesos per dollar than they
have in the past. As the cost of everything continues to
increase, their money is worth less compared to the dollars
they receive in payments, and that has a direct impact on
on the rise
Indeed, the costs of producing flowers in all growing
communities—South America, California, Holland, etc.—have
increased in all aspects. This includes labor, energy, pest
control and other chemicals, packaging, air freight, etc.
Meanwhile, prices for cut flowers have not increased.
Instead, growers have continued to lower prices at wholesale
and retail to almost unreasonable levels.
Farms have tried to
adjust to these challenges by cutting costs, but it becomes
difficult to cut further without affecting quality. Every
day, farms have to make decisions on what they need to do to
stay in business.
South America’s flower growers have had some challenges in
recent years. But they are doing what they can to look to
One way to get an
edge, of course, is for growers to find products that will
distinguish them from their competitors. However, as prices
decrease, capital available for investing in new products
and new technologies is limited, making it harder for the
farms to produce and introduce the new varieties that have
the potential to increase interest and, therefore, demand.
Yet, new varieties will find their way to market although
perhaps a little more slowly than in the past.
In addition, South American growers are continuing to
focus their attention on social and environmental causes. In
Colombia, the Florverde® program, which is an initiative to
ensure the “quality of life of workers and their families,
as well as environmental sustainability for generations to
come,” complies with strict international social and
environmental standards. Certified farms have grown by 11
percent, and the number of hectares has increased by 16
percent. In Ecuador, a similar program, called FlorEcuador®,
is increasing farms—they’re now up to almost 100 farms
certified—and hectares as well.
The “picture” for South American growers may not be entirely
rosy today, but there’s much to look forward to on the
florecuador • agriflor
biennial edition of FlorEcuador • Agriflor 2010, an
international flower trade show held in Quito, Ecuador, is
set for Oct. 6-9. The event will be held at Cemexpo, which
will host more than 200 exhibitors from around the world,
all showcasing a broad range of floral products and related
Highlights of the
2010 show include a farm tour, a “flower party” and the
quality competition into which growers and breeders will
enter the “best of the best” in cut flowers.
For more information about FlorEcuador • Agriflor 2010
and to register for the event, go to
is the executive vice president of the Association of
Floral Importers of Florida (AFIF), an organization that
works on behalf of its members to ensure the “free flow of
imported floral products into the United States.” For more
information about AFIF, go to