Augusto Solano, Asocolflores, on the importance of generic promotion and collaboration

Colombia: 2021 a record year, but how to capitalize on this growth?

After the first stems that were shipped to the United States 57 years ago, the Colombian floral industry has grown significantly, currently exporting to 100 countries. It has positioned itself as the Latin American country that is offering the greatest variety of flowers for export and last year, they even reached a record in dollars and tons of flowers exported. And this all couldn't have been achieved without the support of Asocolflores, the Colombian association of flower exporters, who will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023. Also in that year, the sixteenth edition of their Proflora trade show will be held again.

In this article, the association Augusto Solano tells us more about the growth of the industry and their initiatives to enable this future growth.

Augusto Solano

Record year 2021
2021 has been a record year for the Colombian floral industry. "In total, 1730 million dollars and 300,000 tons of flowers have been exported. This is an increase of 22% compared to 2020 and 17% compared to 2019, which was a normal year." According to Solano, the reason for this rise is, on the one hand the increase in demand and on the other hand the fact that growers have become more productive, efficient and improved their service towards their clients."

Sea shipments increased
The main market is still the US and last year, the major challenge was the lack of flights and availability of space. As a result, several exporters started to look for alternative routes and turned to sea freight. For several years now, exports via sea are increasing and last year records have even been broken. PortMiami for example saw an increase of 66% in imports compared to last year.

All in all, sea shipments through Florida increased by 40 percent. Solano is pleased to see this balance and sees potential for future growth. "This increase is huge, but when looking at the actual amount of stems that are being shipped by sea, the percentage is still below 10 percent of the total stems that are being exported. So, there is still much to gain."

Valentine's Day 2022, smoothest ever
A good part of the success when exporting flowers depends on the logistics chain, and since the inception of Asocolflores, they are working on generating smooth logistics. In 2006 they introduced Petal Plan, in which special attention is given to the mobility of cargo, as well as preventing illegal actions to guarantee a seamless flow and thanks to this plan. This year's Valentines's Day has been, despite the pandemic, one of the smoothest ever, he says. "The Petal Plan brings together all the stakeholders in the logistics chain. Not all are used to handling flowers and aren't always aware of the fact that a large bulk need to be shipped in a short time frame during such a holiday as Valentine's Day. Therefore, we usually start planning and informing all parties a couple of months on forehand. For Valentine's Day, for example, we already start in November. The next big holiday will be Mother's Day for which their preparations will start again end of this month. "Mother's Day is a bit more challenging, because then all kinds of flowers will be shipped in large quantities." 

Promotion of flowers
Besides solving problems and bottlenecks like transportation, Asocolflores also work on social and environmental sustainability, with Ceniflores, Forverde (that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year) and La Ruta de la Sostenibilidad, and the promotion of flowers. For over 30 years now, they are organizing Proflora, a trade fair that is being held every other year in Bogota. In 2017, they introduced the brand “Flowers of Colombia”, which is being used to position Colombian flowers abroad. For example in Tokyo and Seoul last year. "We want more people to choose our flowers, buying them more often. That is one of the reasons why we are in Seoul and Tokyo, generating new exhibition areas and reaching out to others because flowers certainly give rise to unique emotions,” says Solano.

Joining forces for generic promotion 
Solano stresses that more generic promotion is necessary and in order to achieve it, collaboration is necessary. "In the end, the pandemic has been positive for the industry as it boosted the demand. However, how will the demand be when the pandemic is over? Therefore, it is necessary to think about a strong campaign to promote all kinds of flowers." Together with the major associations in the US and the export association in Ecuador, meetings are being organized on a regular basis, but in the end participation from all people in the industry is necessary, he says. "There is room for that, but the problem is that people do not want to spend money on that and stay a free-rider. We need more solidarity."  

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