Growing pains: Floral importers, purveyors dealing with supply shortages

What's special about white roses? Ask a bride or a florist. The timeless symbol of love and romance is the most sought-after flower for weddings, and it's also a commodity in a behemoth industry.

Shortages of those and other popular flowers that began during the pandemic and still surface sporadically have shaken up the floral industry.

Billions of flowers are imported into the U.S. each year, with flowers from foreign countries accounting for 80% of what the U.S. consumes. Two-thirds are from Colombia, and one-sixth are from Ecuador. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns began in 2020, the availability of some specialty varieties has been unpredictable. Importers have had to scramble when cargo flights are delayed by some of the same issues frustrating the passenger airlines, such as a dearth of pilots and ground crews. Damaging weather and political strife in Ecuador, the world's largest rose producer, have also made landing those perfect bouquets trickier.

Meanwhile, locally grown flowers — which for years have not received as much of the "buy local" love as fruits and vegetables — are gaining traction as more small growers have entered the industry.

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