The fresh flowers that a lover from Fort Lauderdale, in South Florida, in the United States, will give to his beloved tomorrow to celebrate the Valentine’s Day They have traveled almost 2,500 kilometers since they were cultivated on the El Eclipse farm in Tocancipá, Cundinamarca, owned by the Ayurá company.
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In one day of work, Luz Dary Cortés removes at least 1,000 stems of carnations red like pomodoro, pink like joddie or white like moonlight. These go directly to the post-harvest, where they are classified and ‘bonchan’, that is, the bouquets are assembled according to the specifications of each client.
The most repeated at this time are those with 25 stems, the ones preferred by Americans, who buy more Colombian flowers. However, other markets such as the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia are becoming more relevant.
From the Bogotá savannah, the flowers go directly to the El Dorado international airport, where companies such as Avianca Cargo, FedEx Express and American Airlines They send them to more than 100 countries in the world.
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Colombia is the second world exporter of flowers and the first of carnations. About 80 percent of them are shipped by plane and the rest from ports like Santa Marta, Buenaventura and Cartagena.
To the traditional challenges such as the climate and the aging workforce, this year have been added the high production costs, inflationary pressures and recessionary winds, which lead Augusto Solano, president of asocolfloresto recognize that both sales for Valentine’s Day and those of other key dates, such as Mother’s Day, could suffer.
“The sector expects to export between 700 and 800 million stems during the season. This year consumption could be affected, although we do not know to what extent. Inflation can impact the pocket of consumers. Already in December we saw a drop in exports. This situation is going to require an additional effort to promote the entire chain”, said the union leader.
If this estimate is achieved, growth compared to 650 million in 2022 would be 23 percent, according to figures from Asocolflores.
If in 2022 flower exports reached 2,052 million dollars and this season represents 15 percent of the total, what was sold last year for Valentine’s Day was about 307 million, and this figure could be less in 2023.
José Antonio Restrepo, manager of Ayurá, He realizes that his operation has become more expensive due to the increase in inputs by more than 25 percent on average; although —on the other hand— he acknowledges that the expensive dollar has been a relief. “Inputs such as fertilizer, the plastics to cover the greenhouses or the meshes for the hoods have changed. (…) In the sector there are practices to hedge against volatility with exchange hedges. Even so, the dollar has been a relief ”, confesses this businessman who has published some 6 million carnation stems and 2 million roses this season.
That the logistics operation works correctly, especially in these intense weeks in which most of the cargo that is sent on planes are flowers, is essential to be able to fulfill all international orders.
For this reason, as every year the Petal Plan, which aims to reinforce good logistics, ensure the flow of cargo and prevent illegal acts, such as practices related to contamination and theft of flowers.
“There are three weeks in which we give everything of us so that things turn out in the best way. A joint effort between ICA, Asocolflores, Avianca Cargo, the Dian, the National Police, the Anti-Narcotics Directorate, transit agencies, airport and port concessionaires and associations that help to facilitate foreign trade”, said the general manager of ICA, María del Pilar Ruiz.
Keeping the flowers in cold rooms so that they arrive fresh at their destinations is also key. For this reason, the work carried out by the airlines is important, which at this time even triples cargo flights.
For example, between January 16 and February 8, Avianca Cargo operated some 300 flights with nearly 18,000 tons from Colombia and Ecuador to the United States.
«The export of flowers requires an increasingly precise coordination throughout the entire chain to guarantee a delivery with the highest quality standards and in the demanded times. This year was not the exeption. We broke a record for the second year in a row,» he said. Gabriel Oliva, CEO of the companythat this year celebrated its 50th anniversary by sending flowers.
For its part, FedEx Express says that it hopes to transport one million kilos of flowers from Colombia and Ecuador to the United States and that during the last two weeks it tripled its frequencies to respond to the needs of the industry. Eduardo Garrido, senior manager of Ramp Operations and Customs Release of the company, account that they were able to reach 99 percent of delivery addresses in the United States in less than three days.
Also, American Airlines Cargo carried out the transport of more than 38,000 kilos of flowers, from crops in Bogotá and Medellín. “This is one of the most important seasons for the airline,” said Omar Nottaro, Operations Manager for Colombia and Ecuador.
NOELIA CIGÜENZA RIAÑO
Writing Economy and Business
On Twitter: @noe_cig