Colombia Blooms: The Growing Business of Flower Exports

Exploring Colombia’s Flower Industry, Top Export Markets, and Future Prospects

Flowers are the second-largest export produced in Colombia after coffee. Colombia has 15% of the world’s flowers, making it the second-largest product exporter after the Netherlands.

According to Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), in 2021, flower exports from Colombia exceeded the $ 1.4 billion mark for the first time. The report indicates that flower exports from the country hit $1.544 billion between January and December.

Colombia produces 25% of the global supply of roses. Other flower exports from the country include chrysanthemums, carnations, and lilies. The largest market for Colombian flowers is the USA. Exports to the North American country in 2021 were a whopping $1.73 billion. Other destinations for Colombian flowers are Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Challenges and Support for the Flower Export Industry in Colombia

Colombia has rich agricultural land and favorable temperatures that make the flowers flourish. These flowers are grown on large farms that span hundreds of hectares and are located in the savanna region of Colombia, near the capital city of Bogotá. The savanna region’s unique climate, which includes warm days and cool nights, provides the perfect conditions for growing high-quality flowers.

The sector employs around 130,000 people and flower farms are one of the leading sources of employment for women according to Labour Organization (ILO). The sector is growing but it has issues related to long working hours, low wages, job insecurity, and limited access to social protection.

Despite the flower export industry making significant profits, the COVID-19 pandemic affected their sales as exporters received over 50% cancellations on their orders in the second half of 2020.

Flower farmers face a problem of having to transport their flowers over long distances. This can affect the quality and freshness of the flowers when they arrive at their destination.

Climate change is also giving flower farmers a headache. Like most South American countries, Colombia has been receiving a lot of rainfall, which causes floods and mudslides that destroy farms and block roads, thus hindering the transportation of flowers from the farms.

Flower farms in Colombia are susceptible to pests and diseases that damage the flowers, making farmers invest in pesticides, further raising the cost of production, and thus lowering the profit margin.

Labor is also a significant factor in the flower export industry. This represents 50% of all production costs creating a great demand for efficient cash flow as workers had to be paid.

The government promised tax breaks to flower exporters by eliminating “red tape.” The former president proposed collaborating with Asocolflores to increase production and meet the 2030 target. As part of an international campaign, the former president also proposed opening Colombian flower farms to tourism.

Another legislative boost was the exemption of VAT on live plants, which encouraged the sector’s formalization and promoted the consumption of nursery products.

Main Photo by Roxanne Desgagnés on Unsplash

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