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The Colombian king of chrysanthemums

  • The Colombian king of chrysanthemums

    by Market Insider

    Thursday, 16 Apr. 2015

    Flores El Capiro farms, in the flower-growing region of Antioquia, Colombia, have fields and greenhouses of chrysanthemum that stretch across 75 elevated hectares. Manager Carlos Manuel Uribe -- called the King of Chrysanthemums by some members of the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters -- oversees one of the largest chrysanthemum-producing companies in the world. The company was started in 1982 by Uribe's father and others who ‘dreamed of conquering world markets with fresh cut flower,’ according to Uribe.

    In six years, Uribe has transported 1,800 refrigerated containers packed with millions of mums on freighters bound for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Australia, Chile, Japan, Canada and Spain. That's more than anyone else. And that doesn't count that 45% of all he produces is sent to the United States of AMerica aboard dedicated cargo jets.

    Colombia benefits geographically from sitting between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea that leads to the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the country's prosperous flower regions -- producing the world's second largest crop of perishable, fragile flower after the Netherlands -- are near two international airports: Jose Maria Cordova International Airport in Rionegro and El Dorado International Airport in Bogota.

    Also boosting sales is that El Capiro flower farms have earned sustainable status from Florverde, an independent group that certifies sustainable practices. Workers here earn more than the minimum wage and receive benefits.

    Foreign flower growers can sell to higher-end United States retailers if they are part of Florverde, Whole Trade, or other organizations that audit conditions and force members to hold higher levels of farming and employee compensation. United States flower buyers say their customers want a flower that is pretty and will hold its vase life, but they also ask about the conditions of workers who raise the flowers.

    Once those demands are satisfied, consumers want a flower that is fashionable. ‘Americans love purple chrysanthemums right now,’ says Martha Cecilia Diaz, El Capiro's commercial director and one of the company's 1,400 employees. She's been working for El Capiro for more than 20 years. Diaz watches fashion trends to predict the colors of spray and single chrysanthemum that florists, brides and hostesses will want.

    Uribe, who earned an MBA in the United States, says the Colombia flower industry has had hard times due to currency fluctuations, but ‘it was never in danger of going out of business.’ As the current president of the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters (Asocolflores), he adds, ‘Right now the future is bright and we welcome you to see our industry.’

    Source: OregonLive

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