With Valentine’s Day less than 24 hours away, millions of people will say, “I love you” with flowers. Last year, Puerto Ricans spent about $6 million on blooms from Colombia, one of the world’s largest flower exporters, a government spokesman for that country said Thursday.
With a penchant for roses, Puerto Rico has become the largest importer of Colombian flowers in the Caribbean, followed by Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.
Last year, flower exports reached more than $6 million from January 2014 to November 2014, said Carlos González, executive director of Procolombia, the Latin American’ country’s government promotion agency in charge of fostering trade, investment, tourism and country brand.
But despite the millions sold last year, the volume represented an 8.4 percent year-over-year drop in activity, which González attributed to Puerto Rico’s complicated economic panorama.
“Flowers are not a basic necessity. The way the Puerto Rican economy has performed in recent years, we’ve seen that flower purchases from Colombia have dropped, after showing an increase in 2012-2013,” he said. “We don’t have December numbers, but we know flowers are sold during the Christmas holiday.”
Colombia has been exporting flowers for more than 40 years, with the majority of the exports going to the United States and Canada. Its flower industry is valued at more than $1 billion.
“Flower crops in Colombia have high quality standards to ensure better sizes, preservation and colors in the flowers,” said Maria Claudia Lacouture, President of Procolombia. “Beyond producing a quality product, the industry directly generates more than 120,000 jobs that provide opportunities for farmers and women in Colombia to become self-sustaining.”
To boost sales this year, Procolombia has a number of strategies in place, González said.
“We want to support importers in Puerto Rico so that sales are not limited to Valentine’s Day, which is the highest-selling day, but to keep sales going year-round on other important dates such as Mother’s Day and special occasions,” he said.
The Colombian government is also placing special emphasis on this year’s flower fair, to be held Oct. 28-30 in Bogotá, to which Procolombia will invite the region’s most prominent flower buyers, including Puerto Rico-based companies, González said.
“We hope to insert dynamism to keep the market growing,” he said.
Colombia’s global competitors in the floral industry market are the Netherlands, Ecuador, and Kenya.