By Laia Mataix Gomez
Bogota, Feb 11 (EFE).- Valentine’s Day 2022 will find Colombia’s flower growers looking back on a year of record sales despite the shadow cast by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Andean nation sold $1.54 billion worth of flowers during the first 11 months of 2021, an increase of 17 percent over the previous year, according to figures from the Colombian Association of Flower Exporters (Asocolflores).
The growth in demand illustrates the appeal of flowers in a “situation of great tension and anxiety,” association president Augusto Solano told Efe.
For people who had to remain in their homes, he said, flowers provided “a companionship, something that helped them get through confinement.”
While the “uncertainty, greater costs and operational difficulty” that the pandemic imposed on Asocolflores members forced them to adapt the techniques perfected over years to ensure their products could reach every corner of the world in perfect condition, Solano said.
Once cut, the flowers are separated by sizes in preparation for bundling before inspectors from Colombia’s ICA agro-sanitary agency examine them to verify they are free of pests before they can be loaded aboard planes for export.
Throughout the process, care is taken to preserve the cold chain that makes the modern floriculture possible.
Colombia is the world’s No. 2 flower exporter behind the Netherlands. Most of the blooms intended for export are grown on large plantations located near Bogota and Medellin.
Red roses dominate the Valentine’s Day trade, but carnations, chrysanthemums, lilies and hydrangeas account for the largest volume of exporters during the rest of the year.
Eighty percent of the 650 million flowers exported in a typical year go to the United States, but Colombian blooms are also popular in Europe and Japan.
The industry’s workforce is overwhelmingly female and at the El Redil plantation near Bogota, nearly 70 percent of the employees are female heads of households.
“I am what I am and I have what I have thanks to flowers,” staff member Amanda Martinez told Efe, expressing a sentiment shared by Rosalba Pinzon, who has worked at El Redil for 25 years.
This time of year, Amanda, Rosalba and their colleagues commonly labor for more than 12 hours a day and improving working conditions is one of the major challenges facing the industry. EFE lmg/dr