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Colombian flower grower Pablo Bazzani, La Plazoleta:
"Perfection alstroemerias still oversold in challenging market"
Twelve years ago, Bazzani and four other Colombian alstroemeria growers, developed a method to enhance the quality of their product and started to sell them under the brand namePerfection. Later on, they also created a Perfection program for the cultivation of snapdragons and statice. These three flower types under this brand are produced, handled and packaged differently to the other flowers of the same type they cultivate on the farm.
Since the introduction of the program and brand, they have seen the demand increasing. However, even though these positive developments, the Perfection growers still have to deal with some challenges and the main challenge at the moment is the fact that some characteristics of the program/brand are being copied by other growers. "Particularly our patented packing process seems to be imitated by some. We have heard from our clients that these packed flowers look similar to ours. But they aren't, because they are not cultivated following the Perfection program."
Four categories of alstroemerias grown by La Plazoleta; Fancy, Select, Super Select and Perfection.
How Perfection came into existence
Why do local alstroemerias always receive higher prices than Colombian alstroemerias in Canada? This question motivated the four alstroemeria growers from different Colombian farms (La Plazoleta, Suasuque, La Conchita, Grupo Andes) to investigate new ways to enhance the quality of their flowers twelve years ago. After years of research, they found a method and the flowers that are grown handled and packed following this method are branded as Perfection. Recently, an Ecuadorian farm, Valleflor joined the group and currently, these five farms are within the main Alstroemeria producers in the world with around 40 hectares.
After growing Perfection Alstroemerias for several years, the group decided to develop a Perfection program for other flowers. So, about five years ago, they started to grow Perfection snapdragons and, about 1.5 years ago, Perfection statice. Also these flowers received higher prices afterwards. "The snapdragons for example, were usually used only in bouquets and weren't that expensive products. However, our Perfection program enabled us to create a product with a longer spike; 20cm instead of 15cm and a vase life of 12 days, which is doubled. Four years ago, we found a customer in the USA. After sending some test bunches first, he noticed a great demand from event planners. Currently, the demand and prices for snapdragons are stable."
Perfection Alstroemerias have a bloom size of up to 25% more than a regular Alstroemeria. Furthermore, it has between five and seven flowers per stem and a stem thickness of 7mm.
Difference to regular production and post harvest process
So, how does the Perfection method differs from the regular production and post harvest processes? "First of all, we will trial every type of flower and select only the best varieties. These varieties receive a different cultivation process - in every farm, around 25 to 40 percent of the production area is dedicated to the Perfection flowers- and are weekly audited by a third party, FlorControl. The flowers take advantage of a maximum exposure to basic growth criteria such as sun, nutrients and water as they stay a bit longer in the greenhouse than the non Perfection flowers. Unlike the regular Colombian flowers, the Perfection flowers are being harvested at a more mature phase; when the buds are open. As a result, shipping becomes a challenge. For this reason, we developed a specialized packaging and shipping method for each type of flower. Alstroemerias, for example, are being netted individually. It is more labor intensive, but in this way the quality can be kept high and the foliage and mature buds are fully protected. It is a patented process", says Bazzani.
Other growers try to free-ride on success
All in all, the Perfection program and brand resulted in a higher quality product, that, in turn, higher sales for the group. However, even though the success, they still have to deal with some challenges and the main challenge at the moment is the fact that some characteristics of the program/brand that are being copied by other growers in order to receive higher prices. "In general, the prices for alstroemerias are low. However, not for the Perfection alstroemerias and this might be the reason that some of the characteristics, like netting them individually, of the Perfection program have been tried to copy. We have heard from our clients that these flowers look similar to ours when they are in the box. However, they are not. First of all, these flowers are not cultivated following the Perfection program. Secondly, only licensed Perfection growers can sell alstroemerias netted, as it is a patented process and finally, we do not only deliver a product, but a service to our clients too"
Expanding and maintaining markets
The Perfection group is continuously expanding and maintaining markets for the brand. "Last May, we attended the IPM Shanghai in China to expand our market over there. And this year, we will attend the Flowers Expo in Moscow again in September to maintain our market in Russia. Russia have gone through some tough years and we want to show our support and keep our brand alive in that country. Right after this show, they will present the Perfection brand at the Proflora in Bogota, Colombia. At this show, the Perfection farms will be exhibiting under one roof."
Their booth at the Proflora 2015.
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