Exports and value added, the new challenges for nurseries in Colombia

September 2018 marked two years of work for the Association of Colombian Nurseries, Colviveros. This Trade Association works in a segment that had never been in the spotlight in this South American country despite being an important generator of employment and livelihood for more than 25,000 Colombian families. FloralDaily spoke with Jairo Cadavid Ossa, president of Colviveros, to learn about the progress and goals of this Association that seeks to organize, stimulate and promote the development and competitiveness of producers of live and ornamental plants in Colombia.

Why form a new Trade Association in Colombia?
First of all, it's a segment mainly composed of a production model dominated by a small-scale family farming economy which needs a "push" in order to professionalize and achieve a new scale in Colombia. Secondly, we as a country must conform to the green trends spread worldwide and recognize that live plants have an enormous growth potential beyond their ornamental value, since they support processes so important to humans such as the water cycle, thermal regulation, and the capture of carbon dioxide. Lastly, Colombian consumers deserve nursery products with the highest quality standards. 

And what has been the response?
A portfolio of services to which the growers of the country did not previously have access, together with the design of an inclusive participation model, has allowed us to overcome the barrier of the 400 members in 11 departments in less than two years of work. Since we are dealing with a segment where we have a very high number of small farm producers, we have opted for a very light administrative burden model so we can transfer that benefit to our affiliates. We have no fixed headquarters, our management is carried out under the model of shared workspaces, and both, contributors and associates are linked to our organization through the use of new technologies.

And what is different about the Colviveros model?
The focus is on the needs of the growers. We concentrate on two fundamental aspects for them, technical assistance with training, and commercial business development. Affiliates are offered free technical support via WhatsApp. A group of technicians coordinated by Alfonso Alvarado, director of the Research Center for the Advancement of the Ornamental Nursery Industry (Ceniviveros), receives questions, photos and videos of pests and diseases in crops, analyzes them to offer a course of action, and uses such information to establish the phytosanitary map of the sector in the country. With the help of the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University and the Dutch cooperation, we provide training in new greenhouse production technologies, and in the context of the international exhibitions we encourage plant growers to go out and participate in guided technical missions to the United States, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Brazil.

What about the commercial side?
In this field of work, we convened our first Congress and Professional Nursery Trade Show, last August. About 300 producers, wholesalers and vendors of the green-industry supply chain in Colombia participated in ExpoPlantas 2018, an event that besides providing technical and commercial training to the highest level, has generated a new commercial dynamic which has prompted us to start working on the 2019 version to promote the added value of the industry to a new segment.

How do Colombian nurseries stand regarding exports?
The potential of the segment is not only focused on the national market, where there is an enormous possibility of offering differentiated products to the national consumer. In the international arena, we are waiting for a figure greater than USD21 million in exports of live plants, cuttings and foliage by the end of the year. Companies like Darwin Colombia will export this year more than 70 million cuttings of live plants to the United States, Canada and Europe, which shows how nurseries have all the potential to generate more employment and open a new export window for Colombia.

Any upcoming special projects?
Yes, offering more training topics including aspects like the plant variety rights, but especially projects such as the National Consolidation Center in which we are already working. The ornamental markets of Brazil and Mexico, estimated at USD1.8 billion and USD350 million annually respectively, reached their current size thanks to the work of several associative movements that focused on logistics, consolidation, and commercialization so they could bring to market all the products, on a large scale and under one single roof.

For more information:
Jairo Cadavid

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