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Transportation has been called “the forgotten link” in the chain of flower distribution for a good reason. The flower supply chain is commonly thought of as grower to importer to bouquet maker or wholesale florist to retailer, forgetting how many companies and people are involved with getting flowers from one of those links to another.

Yet these transportation companies are vital to ensuring flowers (carefully and skillfully grown, harvested and packed) get through the supply chain to the ultimate consumer as though they were just cut from the plant. Here is what’s ahead for flower transportation in 2013.

Ground transportation. We should all be thankful for the first-rate job ground transportation companies do for floral. Once flowers are in their hands, they perform in an excellent and dependable manner. What’s ahead? A deeper understanding of the challenges facing them, I hope.

Air transportation. As important as air cargo is to the future of floriculture, cargo airlines have failed to understand what ground transportation has known for decades: Flowers have to be kept cold before, during and after flights, something that is rarely done. The new cargo terminal in Bogota, Colombia, and now the new airport in Quito, Ecuador (projected to be completed in February of 2013), present great opportunities to improve this unacceptable situation.

I recently met with representatives of Ecuador’s government and their trade association Expoflores, and with the Colombian government and its trade group Asocolflores, and have been repeatedly assured that both countries are aware of these issues and will be addressing them in 2013.

They all recognize it is in growers’ as well as everyone else’s best interests to not just grow great flowers but to do everything possible to keep flower quality at a high level throughout the distribution chain.

Maritime transportation. One of the most exciting new developments in transportation is the successful shipping of flowers via sea containers. For the past two years, roses and other varieties have been shipping from Colombia to Russia, the United Kingdom and the European Union with great success.

The key here has been proper preparation of flowers prior to shipping, including vacuum cooling. There are differences in shipping flowers by this method, including longer lead times (up to 24 days), far better temperature and environmental controls and lower costs.

Plans are underway to ship flowers from Colombia and Ecuador to U.S. ports. This is a serious transportation option to consider in 2013.

Terry Johnson of Horticultural Marketing Resources is a speaker, writer and consultant, focusing on helping build consumer demand for fresh flowers. He can be contacted at hortmarketing@aol.com.