“We are relying on our airline partners”, says Christine Boldt, Vice President of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida (AFIF), when she was asked about the logistics in the run-up to Valentine’s Day (February 14). Next week, the farms in Ecuador and Colombia start shipping their Valentine’s Day orders to the US and demand is high, probably higher than pre-COVID times. However, getting them to Miami, where the majority of the flowers enter the country, becomes a challenge as there is a lot of competition for cargo space.
“It’s a domino effect”, she explains. “When COVID hit, of course all passenger flights stopped. And when there are no passenger flights, no cargo can be shipped in the bellies, which means that it has to go on cargo airlines. However, the cargo space hasn’t increased, putting pressure on the flower industry as the airlines are choosing for the commodities for which they receive the highest prices and those often aren’t flowers.”
In the run-up to Valentine’s Day shipments are 7 to 10 times higher than what they normally ship. So, more flights are needed, but if the airlines are able to supply the flights needed, that’s a huge question mark. “Verbally, the airlines assured us that they would be putting more flights in, but we will just have to wait and see if the number of flights will accommodate all of the volumes to ship.”
What about sea freight? “Over the last years, the number of sea containers has gone up significantly, but for the shipment of roses - the number one Valentine’s Day flower – this type of shipment entails a lot of risks; if there is a pest in the container, the whole container needs to be fumigated and then, costs will be high.” Yet, sea shipments are a secure environment for temperature control products like flowers.
Fortunately, there is also good news to share; The demand is high, probably higher than in previous years, and Miami is ready to receive the huge amount of flowers, she says. “Customs are providing us additional inspectors prior to Valentine’s Day and importers are ready.”
Then, the final challenge is getting enough truck drivers. “As there are a lot more flowers to be transported throughout the country, more drivers are needed. And as the country is already dealing with truck drivers shortages, this will pose another challenge.”
Despite all challenges caused by COVID-19, Boldt is still very pleased. “COVID provided the industry in the US something we could have never predicted. Flower importers never closed (unlike a lot of wholesalers and retail florists). They were always here and were therefore able to let people experience the huge emotional value of flowers. Over the last year, demand has been higher than the supply. Again, this is great, but the last thing you want is to disappoint consumers in not having enough for them for Valentine’s Day not being able to supply them.”
Association of Floral Importers of Florida (AFIF)