BOGOTA, Colombia: Augusto Solano, President of sector body Asocolflores comments that while in his own country practically all flower sales outlets have closed, the only place to buy some flowers is the supermarket. Of much bigger concern, however, it the market situation abroad as Colombia is the world’s second-largest flower exporter worldwide, distributing its flowers to over 90 countries.
Most of the flowers go to the US. Commenting on the current state of business, Solano says, “Over 90% of the flowers currently shipped out of Colombia are going to the US. Under normal circumstances that proportion is 80%. There have been some shipments to Asia and small quantities to Europe (the Netherlands). About 20-25% of the volumes regularly exported from Colombia are currently being shipped.”
The country’s industry, he says, is facing disruption in the supply chain. “Asocoflores was able to achieve support from the government through an exemption allowing transport of personnel working in flower farms (about 30-40% of the usual workforce is going to the farms to keep things running). Cargo flights from Bogotá are operating and have good availability, however freight prices are showing a steep increase because there is little or no southbound (return) cargo. There is no easy route to Asia, specifically to Japan and Australia, two important destinations for Colombian flowers (in normal times).”
Solana doesn’t anticipate big change in the traditional B2B floral supply chain. “It is well possible that e-commerce or online business increases. I do not see a large change in this respect. We are also well aware that importers of Colombian flowers around the world will not be able to replace imports with local production – and we will still be ready with our excellent product once this is over.”
Solano is reluctant to provide any figures on possible financial losses. “It is extremely difficult to calculate but in one word – HUGE.”
He thinks the outbreak of the coronavirus forces the industry to reflect on the benefits of developing a collaborative international marketing scheme, undertaking joint campaigns, showing a strong united front. “We have failed in this – and during these strange and difficult times we are suffering the consequences.”
Meanwhile, Solano is happy with the support the government is giving. “The Colombian flower industry is very important to our country, raising revenue, providing thousands of jobs and much more. The Colombian Government is fully supportive of our sector and past governments have been too. This situation is a great chance to develop strong cooperation, to innovate, be creative and take initiative. It is also bringing out clearly the benefits of the sector: from tapping fully into the potential offered by emotional impacts flowers can have in the many aspects of life, to workers and everyone making part of the value chain -up to consumers – fully appreciating what floriculture brings to them, what it represents. It goes well beyond making a living.”
Colombia grows 8,000 ha of flowers with 7,000 ha cultivated in greenhouses and 1,000 ha of field production. In 2019, the country exported $1.5 billion worth of flowers. The industry supports 140,000 direct jobs and a total of 400,000 when adding indirect ones.