Carnation grower Mauricio Briceño, Turflor:

Colombia: “Because of pandemic we gained the US market as new customers”

“We had to trash our flowers as the demand completely died down when the pandemic just started in 2020. While the start of the pandemic was challenging, we gained a new market in the summer of 2020 in the US market, which was not very important for us in the past, but demand has been increasing strongly since last year,” explains Mauricio Briceño of Turflor, a 55 ha Colombian carnation grower. He explains why he thinks the US demand for their carnations has been so strong, as well as the other benefits and the challenges that the pandemic provided Turflor.

Mauricio Briceño at the IFTF in November 2019 in Vijfhuizen, the Netherlands 

Trashing flowers
According to Briceño, the pandemic has provided Turflor with many challenges. “When the pandemic just started in March/April 2020, the demand died down to the point where we almost completely had to stop our operations. In the middle of the pandemic, the number of flights was also reduced, which meant that there was a major reduction of cargo space for flowers, so it was even challenging to ship the small amount of flowers that we were able to sell. As a result, we ended up having to trash flowers, as we had no place and means to send them.”

Gaining the US market
Luckily, the demand has been increasing and Turflor even noticed that they gained a new area of demand. While they do deliver their flowers worldwide, the US market was not one of their strongest. “What is interesting is that ever since the summer of 2020 the US market has become a really strong market for us, whereas it wasn’t in the past. My theory is that the US market is more focused on mass market sales through supermarkets, for example, than other parts of the world are. During the pandemic, these supermarket flowers sales have been increasing, which is what we are noticing in our demand. We are excited about this new area of customers and are hoping to maintain it in the future.”

Third corona peak in Colombia
While the demand for Turflor’s flowers has been increasing, there is still a number of challenges they are dealing with. “Unfortunately, we are currently in a third COVID peak in Colombia, with COVID cases and deaths really high again. This is also affecting our company, as we have our farms here in Bogotá and it is a challenge to continue work while keeping our employees safe and healthy. In addition, like a lot of companies in the industry, we are greatly impacted by the increased prices of raw materials. It is increasing the costs of our production, which is something we need to be careful of. As a result, an important focus for our company is cost-efficiency. We are working with our employees to increase productivity, and as a result everyone in the team is more committed to find more efficiency. This way, we are aiming to produce more flowers and ultimately reduce costs. Despite the challenges, we are positive about the future and the most important thing for us by far is that everyone remains safe and healthy.”

For more information:
Mauricio Briceño      

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