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Prolonged freeze in Colombia damages flowers for Valentine's Day

by John S. Niblock | January 27, 2010
A prolonged period of freezing weather in late December and early January damaged about 30 percent of the flower crops in the area around Bogotá, Colombia, according to Augusto Solano, president of Asocolflores, the Colombian flower growers association.

Mr. Solano stated in a news release that a significant amount of the crop loss was among roses, carnations and other flowers earmarked for export to the United States for Valentine's Day. Flowers in greenhouses covering more than 12 acres were affected by the frost and Asocolflores estimated the damages to roses alone totaled about $15 million.

Marco Beltran, president of the Mexican Flower Council, said in an interview that the main cut-flower growing region in Mexico had been very cold but had no frost.

Ecuador also was spared, according to Dean Rule, general manager of Conectiflor in Quito, Ecuador, an Ecuadorian company that represents flower breeders and provides technical post-harvest and shipping services. "Situations such as the recent freeze in Colombia make it clear the U.S. flower industry needs multiple, dependable sources," he said in an e-mail message. Maria Albero, owner of FloralSense in Miami, which imports flowers and foliage from Costa Rica, said in mid-January that crops there have not been affected.

Supermarket floral departments that have already placed firm orders for their Valentine’s Day flowers will not be affected by the loss in Colombia, said Stan Pohmer of the Flower Promotion Organization, which represents South American and California growers.

“They can count on getting 100 percent of the flowers they ordered at the price they specified,” he said. Growers who don’t have enough flowers to fill these orders will purchase them from other growers to fulfill their contract, he said. Last-minute orders on the open market are a different story, Mr. Pohmer noted, and buyers there may encounter higher prices and limited availability.

The two main flowers sold for Valentine’s Day are roses and carnations. “The freeze in Colombia mainly affected roses and softer products like calla lilies,” Mr. Pohmer said. Early-morning freezes dipped to as low as 23 degrees, but did not extend to the southern Rio Negro area of Colombia where many flower farms are located, he added.

Christine Boldt, executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida, cautioned that the loss of flowers from Colombia will not necessarily lead to an increase in prices on Valentine’s Day. “We have an oversupply of flowers now,” she said, “and other flower-growing countries like Africa may be able to fill the demand.”

Bill Schodowski, business development manager for Transflora in Miami, an importer and distributor that is an operating division of Delaware Valley Floral Group, said the sustained cold weather in the Bogotá area of Colombia may reduce the supply of flowers for Valentine’s Day but it will be an inconvenience rather than a disaster. “The Medellin area in Colombia and the Quito area in Ecuador are big suppliers,” he said, “and they were not affected by the freeze.” Transflora buys from 90 farms in Colombia and Ecuador. “We don’t own any farms, so we can buy from other growers,” Mr. Schodowski pointed out.

Ali Cruz, in charge of marketing for Fresca Farms, a Doral, FL, importer and distributor, said in mid-January that all of the company’s farms in Colombia were located outside freeze areas and survived the cold spell with minor damage.