Colombia is the second largest exporter of fresh-cut flowers in the world after the Netherlands and the top supplier of flowers to the United States1. In 2013, Colombian flowers accounted for 65% of cut flower imports in the United States2. Colombia produces a wide variety of flowers, including carnations, roses, alstroemerias, and chrysanthemums, and 95% of its flower production is exported1.
Asocolflores is a trade organization that represents the Colombian floriculture industry domestically and internationally with the aim of helping Colombia maintain its position in the global cut flower market. The members of Asocolflores collectively make up approximately 75% of Colombian floral exports1. Asocolflores supports its trade members with work on market research, coordination across the industry’s logistics chain, involvement in domestic and international policy and regulatory affairs, and promotion of sustainable growing practices certifications.
In the coming decades, Colombian agriculture can expect some substantial temperature rises, increasingly unpredictable precipitation patterns, and a likely greater prevalence of pests and diseases thanks to climate change3. Agriculture employs one fifth of Colombia’s population and represents one tenth of its GDP3. The agricultural sector is responsible for 40% of the country’s exports, and fresh-cut flower exports represent about 26% of Colombia’s agricultural exports, second to only coffee1.
By 2050, temperatures are expected to rise by about 2-2.5 degrees Celsius consistently across Colombia’s agricultural areas and by as much as 3-3.5 degrees Celsius in some agricultural areas3. Plus, the agriculture challenges resulting from climate variations experienced in the past decade associated with El Nino and La Nina will only be amplified. Per projections by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, 80% of crops will likely feel the impact of these changes in most of their areas of cultivation3. The country’s agriculture sector, including the floriculture sector, must become more adaptive and do its part in flowing the effects of climate change.
Asocolflores encourages the adoption of various certifications for sustainable growing practices including Florverde Sustainable Flowers (“Florverde”), GLOBALG.A.P., and Rainforest Alliance Certified. Asocolflores helped to established Florverde Sustainable Flowers (“Florverde”), a certification of sustainable growing requirements and standards specific to the floriculture industry1. Florverde has been recognized as a “Resembling Scheme” by GLOBALG.A.P. (“Global Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture”)5.
More and more, growers, importers, and distributors of Colombian flowers destined for the US market are learning that their customers (i.e. supermarket chains, mass retailers, wholesale clubs, and floral wholesalers) want sustainably grown flowers. Some customers even request that certification logos be placed on product packaging like decorative floral sleeves to highlight their sustainable origins. But what do these sustainable growing certifications require of flower growers?
Florverde standards promote the implementation of energy efficient processes and specific water storage and conservation techniques. Collected rainwater makes up over 60% of water used to irrigate Florverde-certified flowers, and growers are required to closely monitor water consumption and to install efficient irrigation technologies in greenhouses, such as drip irrigation systems4. Moreover, growers are required to prepare a five-year plan for optimize water consumption and to engage in reforestation activities using native plant species4.
Florverde requires growers to minimize their use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals that could be harmful to humans and the environment. It does so by promoting alternative solutions like Integrated Crop Management techniques, natural compost or mechanical alternatives to pesticides . If fertilizers must be used, Florverde requires detailed soil analysis prior to any fertilizer application4.
Asocolflores could consider the entire logistics chain for floral exports to identify more opportunities for sustainable practices in Colombian floriculture. In 2013, only 3% of Colombia flowers exports were shipped via maritime freight6. The remaining exports were shipped via air freight for speed and quality purposes. However, some flower growers have started to successfully adopt maritime shipping for certain floral products. Asocolflores might draw from its members’ experience to highlight how successful maritime shipping has been when exporting to other foreign markets, like Europe, Russia, Japan, and Australia. Also, Asocolflores could possibly help its members anticipate the effects of rising temperatures on future crop yields and alternatives to currently produced crops.
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