Pablo Restrepo Samper, Excellence Flowers:

Chinese Valentine's Day boosts South American rose sales

Today, it is Valentine's Day in China. This day, which is being celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month in the Chinese calendar, offers growers a great opportunity to increase their sales during a period that is known as low season. "The demand for roses - and red in particular - is high, each client bought from 6 to 10 times more than their weekly volume", says Colombian rose grower Pablo Restrepo Samper of Excellence Flowers.
For three years now, Pablo Restrepo Jr. has been exporting roses to China for the Chinese Valentine's Day and the Western Valentine's Day, which is also being celebrated in China in February. For a couple of months, he has been exporting roses on a weekly basis to Beijing, Shanghai and occasionally to Kunming. "In May 2016, I attended the IPM in Beijing and that is where I met some of my current clients", he says.

Pablo Restrepo Mallarino and Pablo Restrepo Samper (father and son) at the IFTF in Vijfhuizen, the Netherlands.

Production re-peak
The Chinese Valentine's Day comes at the right moment. "Here in Colombia we are dealing with, production wise, a re-peak of Mother's Day. The volumes are high, so it is great to have a market that is demanding roses, red in particular, during this time of the year", he says. Moreover, according to Pablo Restrepo Jr., the demand for roses in China is in general more stable than in other markets. "It is a more solid market that mainly demands high-quality colored & bi-colored roses with a stem length of 70cm and higher during the rest of the year."
Competitive advantage
Colombia is quite a new player on the Chinese market. The Ecuadorian roses are well-known in China and people are used to these roses. So, in order to enter the market, Colombia has to come up with equivalent roses. "There are just a few Colombian growers, and we are one of them, that are able to produce roses that are equivalent or even better than the Ecuadorian ones. These growers have a competitive advantage that makes the Colombian roses more attractive; they are cheaper. It is cheaper to transport flowers from Colombia to China than from Ecuador to China. Additionally, the Freedom variety that is grown in Colombia does not get sun-burned as easily as the Freedom that is grown in Ecuador", he says.

The farm of Excellence Flowers in Bogota, Colombia.

Logistic challenges
Even though China is a large market that is increasing the sales of Excellence Flowers, they are also dealing with some logistical challenges. “Unlike the transportation from Colombia to the US and from Colombia to Europe which turns out pretty well most of the time, logistics are a lot more complicated when it comes to shipping roses to China. Sometimes, shipments are 'cooked’ while arriving their final destinations. This means one thing: some airlines don’t know yet how to handle cold-chain perishables. So, this is something that the airlines and cargo agencies need to work on."
Increasing production
Excellence Flowers is planning to increase their 20ha greenhouse in Colombia to 34ha in 4 to 5 years time. "We are planning to add 3 to 3,5 ha per year', says Restrepo. And unintentionally, a large percentage of this new production will probably go to China. "This expansion was planned before we even entered the Chinese market and now that we have more clients over there, we see a lot of potential to increase our exports to this country. Currently, we are supplying flowers to Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming, but there are a lot more large cities with millions of people that are demanding flowers."

For more information
Excellence Flowers
Pablo Restrepo Samper

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