Ocean, alternative to air for Colombian flowers

25-06-2019    02:45   |    The Produce News

Whether it’s bouquets of roses for Valentine’s Day; carnation boutonnieres on a groom’s lapel or wrapped bunches of alstroemeria in water at your local supermarket it’s likely that Colombia is the source of these lovely flowers. Almost 80 percent of all Colombian flower exports are bound for the United States. Overall, Colombia’s floriculture trade totals over $1 billion, generating significant income for the country. 

So, it’s reasonable that any issue that would negatively impact Colombia’s floriculture trade would cause economic concern within Colombia.  This came to be when the long-established transportation network for floral exports to the United States was impacted. Historically, flowers have exclusively shipped by air to cold storage facilities in Southern Florida and then trucked to U.S. markets. 

In recent years though, Colombian airlines cut capacity and the frequency of flights to the United States. This reduction in services impacted flower growers and the reliability of their floral exports to U.S. customers that depended on them for significant flower buying holiday periods, such as Valentine’s Day roses.  If this shipping delay continued, it could ultimately hurt Colombia’s floriculture trade competitiveness. 


Ocean transportation emerged as a viable and beneficial alternative to air to support Colombian growers.  Controlled atmosphere reefer (refrigerated) containers provide the ideal environment for flowers, that once loaded, travel in a stable, unbroken end-to-end cold chain from farm to their final destination.   

Ocean further benefits floral exporters with regular weekly, direct services to a variety of U.S. ports expanding the number of entry points for florals beyond the one Southern Florida gateway.  Port of Philadelphia is an example of a major reefer gateway.  These new routing options enable floral exporters to get closer to consumer markets.  In the case of Philadelphia, closer to the large, highly populated New York Metro area., providing a significant reduction in trucking and product handoffs.  Also, less emissions for more environmentally friendly routing - ocean transport produces fewer emissions as compared to trucking.  Ocean not only offers an alternative to air, but it also opens up new routing options.  

You might think that packaging would vary based on the transportation mode, but it is, in fact, a non-issue.  Whether a grower ships by air or by sea, the design and quality of the packaging is pretty much the same.  Flowers are carefully packed in ventilated boxes for both. 

What does vary when looking at ocean vs. air, is the number of transport handoffs that flowers experience.  With an ocean-going reefer container, flowers are loaded in Colombia and remain in a consistent environment at a set temperature for the entire journey.  Also, since flowers can be shipped as close to the customer as possible with ocean the temperature environment is more dependable and consistent since the flowers remain in the reefer container all the way up to the final destination.  

When flowers are shipped to Southern Florida by air, they’re not refrigerated while in transit.  When they arrive, they’re transferred to a cold storage facility, if space is available, and inspected by agricultural authorities, hopefully in a timely manner.  They are then trucked in a refrigerated trailer from this southern U.S. point to locations throughout the country and Canada. 

Click here to read the complete article at The Produce News.

Photo credit: Revista Semana

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