Jose "Joey" Azout has been working in the industry for over 25 years. His experience is tremendous and his passion for flowers and people is his drive. He started out as sales manager of a small farm in Bogotá called and went on to start Maxima Farms in Miami. Now, he is the president of Alexandra Farms, a boutique grower specializing in nostalgic, romantic, fresh-cut garden roses, located in the incredibly fertile savanna of Bogotá, high in the Andes Mountains of Colombia.
"I think we can talk about 3 periods: "before", "during" and "after" Covid, but the last one is divided into two parts. It's not just "after Covid", it's the transition between to the new future, This is what we are going through now and this transition is a complicated one because there are countries that are coping well with this entire situation, being very close to no longer having applications for quarantine, some getting herd immunity and evolving well in terms of vaccination, but on the other hand, there are countries that are just starting to see a huge exponential increase in the virus, such as India and Brazil. In this transition period, as those countries come along, we hope that it will not be long before we see a lot of things trying to catch up.
Currently, in the U.S. we see a shortage of flowers because these are the consequences of Covid. When this pandemic started, we did not expect to sell our flowers soon and we certainly had to reduce our costs. The business went down 20% and we were thinking that it would be years before we would get out of this COVID situation. Like many other people, we began to focus on the core of our business and stopped doing anything else besides that.
One of the biggest challenges is with the personnel. Even still today we have all sorts of Covid requirements at the farm. Frequent hand washing, wearing the mask, respecting social distancing, are a few things that we must respect. The big problem is that when one person in a pod becomes infected, then the whole pod must be quarantined. If somebody at the post-harvest gets sick then five or six people have to go home for a couple of weeks and then we have to quickly figure out who is going to take care of the flowers. All of these Covid issues create big struggles with the staff."
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