BOGOTA, Colombia – Valentine’s Day romantics in the United States are giving hope to workers at flower farms in Colombia during the coronavirus pandemic
Diana Puentes, a mother of two, said she was able to work overtime this season. And like Puentes, 140,000 people earn their livelihood from the industry. The majority of them are women.
“Flowers represent love, harmony, friendship, and sacrifice,” Puentes said while standing inside a greenhouse for carnation growing.
After months of preparation, the most crucial steps happen in a few days. From the moment workers cut the stem, the flower has about two days before it blooms. This gives workers enough time to carefully package and refrigerate the flowers.
American Airlines’ Boeing 777-200 were scheduled to fly from Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport to Miami International Airport to help deliver some of the 700 million flowers Colombia is exporting.
“We have great hope,” Colombia’s Agriculture Minister Rodolfo Zea said about this year’s sales.
Once the fresh flowers arrive at MIA, a team of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents screen them for suspicious bugs.
After the screening process, the flowers are ready to be delivered to wholesalers, distributors, and florists.
Florverde Sustainable Flowers, an organization that certifies industry standards, listed Publix, Whole Foods, and 1-800-Flowers as some of the retailers selling Colombian flowers in the U.S.
The Colombian flower industry bloomed when the U.S. Congress passed a law eliminating tariffs in the 1990s. It is suffering during the pandemic.
Asocolflores, the Colombian Association of Flower Exporters, reported buyers canceled more than 50% of scheduled sales late last year. According to the Colombian Agricultural Institute, they also export flowers to England, Spain, France, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, Korea, and Japan. But the highest demand is in the U.S.