Bloomberg Línea — Valentine’s Day is one of the first big celebrations of the year across the world, and especially in the United States, and which imports large quantities of flowers for the occasion, with Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala the leading suppliers, counties which also ship large volumes of flowers to Russia.
However, the industry faces challenges due to high inflation, adverse weather and a slowdown in economic growth in its export markets such as the US and Europe.
Colombia, a major flower exporter for Valentine’s Day
According to figures from Colombia’s association of flower exporters (Asocolflores), the sector’s sales totaled $2.05 billion in 2022, and sales projections for this year are 58,000 tons, around 700 and 800 million stems, with 80% of exports destined for the US market, although Colombian flowers are exported to 100 countries in total during the year.
In addition, specifically for the US market, more than 70% of the flowers shipped are sent in bouquets, that is, hand-assembled bouquets of flowers arranged on a structure, designed by specialized florists.
Asocoflores tweeted a video of a Colombian flower grower, as the country’s industry steps up exports for Saint Valentine’s Day.
Saint Valentine’s Day accounts for 15% of the country’s total annual flower exports, followed by Mother’s Day.
“We expect to exceed $2 billion in exports this year, which may decrease a little due to bad weather during the last two months (of the year,” Augusto Solano, the president of Asocolflores, told loca media.
“However, the market, as usual, is good on Valentine’s Day. For the rest of the year we see a challenge in world consumption due to inflation and recession, which may affect income,” he added.
One of the key allies for the export of flowers from Colombia and Ecuador has been the airline Avianca, with its Avianca Cargo division, which recently celebrated 50 years of air transport for the flower sector.
For Valentine’s Day 2023 alone, the airline operated 300 cargo flights from both countries to the United States between January 16 and February 8, transporting close to 18,000 tons, up from 16,000 tons the previous year.
“Exporting flowers requires us to coordinate more and more precisely along the entire value chain to guarantee delivery with the highest quality standards and on time,” according to Gabriel Oliva, CEO of Avianca Cargo.
The most-exported varieties of flowers from Colombia and Ecuador this season were roses and carnations, pompons, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums and gypsophila.
Ecuador’s Exports Up 5%
The Valentine’s Day season is one of the most important for the export of Ecuadorian flowers to various destinations, and between January 10 and February 8, Expoflores reported a 5.54% increase in the total volume of tons exported compared with the same period of last year. January 29, February 5 and 7 were the peak days of the air shipment season.
According to the country’s central bank, from January to November 2022, 73% of flower exports were roses, totaling shipments worth $638 million, a 6% growth, totaling 115,800 tons, which was 1% more than in 2021.
“This performance places Ecuador as the second-largest exporter of this product worldwide. Ecuadorian flowers are exported to 120 destinations,” according to a report by Expoflores.
Despite this, Expoflores believes that the growth is modest and that it would have been higher if the economic and climatic conditions were less adverse.
The main markets for Ecuadorian flowers
The US accounts for 42% of exports, the European Union 22%, Russia 11% and other destinations 25%.
Although demand in the United States is expected to decrease, $338 million worth were exported between January and November 2022, a 5% drop in the market and an approximate growth of 3% is expected in 2023.
Meanwhile, exports to Russia amounted to $34 million, a 63% drop, due to the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
Exports to the European Union totaled $213 million, a growth of 13% over the previous year
Guatemala foresees export growth
Guatemala foresees exporting around eight million roses during this year’s Saint Valentine’s Day season, and which will be exported to countries including the United States, Costa Rica and El Salvador.
“This is one of the highest seasons for this sector, and even three times bigger than in other seasons,” according to Guatemala’s exporters’ association Agexport. “The rose is the type of flower that is most exported and of these, 80% are red roses and the rest, about 30%, are colors such as orange, yellow, pink and white, and this year is characterized by a wide variety of two-color mixtures.”
But it is not only roses. Other varieties exported by Guatemala include leather leaf, aralia, eucalyptus, fern, lilies and exotic flowers such as birds of paradise and ginger, among others.
“We expect 2023 to be quite an advantageous year for the flower and ornamental plants sector, and by the end of the year we expect to grow at least 5% in total exports,” the manager of Agexport’s ornamentals, foliage and Ffowers commission, Brigitte Obrock, said.
The 73 companies producing and exporting flowers in Guatemala grow a total of 500 species and 3,000 varieties of ornamental plants, more than 15 species of flowers, and more than 15 species of foliage.
Between January and November 2022, the sector exported $16.9 million of flowers.