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Those who desire to be Eco-friendly are educating themselves on the origin of products they consume on a regular basis. Items less traveled may prove more Eco-efficient than products from distant resources but local production costs often outweigh those of foreign producers. This is certainly the case with cut flower production.
Just a generation ago, the Cleveland area not only produced enough cut flowers for local markets but also exported flowers, tomatoes and other greenhouse-grown vegetable crops to neighboring cities. Chrysanthemums, carnations, roses, iris, lilies, tulips, gladiolas and many other flowers were grown in local greenhouses and in outdoor field production.
During the 1970’s the rising cost of natural gas coupled with more reliable and affordable transportation drove local flower and vegetable producers out of business while California growers prospered. Many operations closed while others adapted to growing other, more profitable crops.
Ideal climatic conditions, low labor costs and relaxed environmental oversight contributed to the rapid growth and eventual dominance of South American flower growers during the 1980’s and 90’s. By 2006, as a result of loosened foreign trade restrictions and resulting investments in Colombian and Ecuadorian growing operations, these countries had captured 90% or more of U.S. flower sales of roses, carnations and chrysanthemums.
Holland also competes for the U.S. cut flower market dominating the sales of orchids and tulips. Canadian cut flower growers have begun tapping into the American market as well exporting roughly 4.8 million flower stems to the U.S. each year. Domestic flower producers continue to compete by focusing more on specialty crops and high-end novelty flowers with new features, such as sweeter fragrances and bolder colors.
Over the past few years the Colombian peso has grown in value. Their growing economy has driven labor costs higher and U.S. flower consumption has declined significantly. Many foreign flower farms have shut down and the fate of many may be in greater question with the most recent developments. The devastating freeze experienced by Florida fruit growers in January extended all the way to Colombia damaging 30% of their cut flower production.
Valentine’s Day drives an enormous amount of cut flower sales for our South American neighbors with 15% of their yearly production slated for the February 14th holiday bringing Colombian growers between 70 and 100 million dollars each year.
Lack of inventory may force some flower prices higher but lack-luster flower sales should moderate the cost increases. Long term; look for locally grown flowers when available, which will help your local farmer, the regional economy and the environment worldwide.
Now go outside and have fun in the dirt!