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Catalina Arango, Flores del Este:

Colombia: “Even though this year’s sales are crazy, the hydrangea exports are down by 5% vs 2019”

“Before 2016, Colombian hydrangea exports were increasing year by year. This happened until 2018, when we saw just a small increase of 0.4% compared to 2017. And after that the hydrangea exports have been going down,” says Catalina Arango, Commercial Director at Flores del Este, a Colombian hydrangea grower. “Since COVID-19, the hydrangea offer has declined by 30%, and we cannot meet demand.” In this article, Arango shares statistics of the Colombian hydrangea market over the years, as well as the possible causes behind them.

Oversaturation of the market
Arango shares that it is possible for the declining exports to be the result of an oversaturated market. “Especially for the United States, which is the main market for hydrangeas. For example, there were around 700 hectares of hydrangea production in Colombia in 2015, which went up to 1500 hectares in 2019. That means that all the hydrangea growers are competing for prices and for the same customers. At Flores del Este, we have had some rough years due to this competition, as there are millions of hydrangeas on the same market.”

Hydrangea offer reduced 30%
Yet COVID-19 has brought a change to this oversaturation. “After COVID, the offer of hydrangeas has reduced by about 30%, as most small farmers could not continue their business. Therefore, the market radically changed in 2021, as there were not enough hydrangeas when customers wanted to buy them. In addition, production was very unstable this year due to the bad weather conditions in Colombia. Another reason why there are fewer hydrangeas on the market is that there is a trend of big companies buying up all available products, as supermarkets are buying much more now compared to years before the pandemic.

On top of all that, logistics issues have been a major challenge. It is difficult to get spaces on the airlines, flights are delayed, and the reservation for shipping products is so challenging that it can take up to 5 days to ship an order.” Yet at the same time the demand for hydrangeas is increasing. “Consumption trends are changing and consumers are buying flowers for everyday use. Moreover, events have started again, and especially weddings are driving up the demand. Still, even though we feel like sales are going crazy, we cannot meet the demand and the Colombian hydrangea exports of 2021 are down 5% compared to 2019.”

Adding 4 hectares of production
“At our farm Flores del Este we never stopped growing hydrangeas during the pandemic because we knew that at some point the market was going to react and we wanted to be ready. If we had stopped it would have resulted in one year without products, so we decided to continue. At the time, we had to dump them all, as hydrangeas are often used for events and those were cancelled. So, from March until August we had terrible sales, but we started seeing a different scene in September 2020 and we started getting back on track little by little. This 2021 we have sold the same amount that we sold in 2019, but we are very happy to have our customers buying.” Arango explains that their farm has also been expanding. “During COVID we had the opportunity to grow 2 more hectares of dark green hydrangeas and 2 hectares of natural lavender hydrangeas. Still, we cannot keep up with the demand and have to choose who to provide for. Before COVID we were selling to 22 countries, and now we are selling to 15. We are giving priority to the loyal customers that supported us during the pandemic so that they continue to get high-quality hydrangeas.”

For more information:
Flores Del Este