I’m in Colombia this week. After some stressful moments on the day before my departure. It turned out my passport was only valid for another five and a half months. And this had to be six. No matter which travel website I consulted, they were all stating this same fact, loud and clear. Renewing a passport one day before departure is not an option, especially not when it’s a Sunday.
Colombia, its capital Bogotá to be more precise, is hosting Proflora this week. A biennial flower trade show. Proflora, which is organised by Asocolflores, invited some journalists to the event, including me. There are farm tours on the programme for tomorrow and Thursday. On Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be visiting the trade show, which even has a Dutch pavilion. But overall, the stands are mostly occupied by Colombians. They do have hectares and hectares of flower cultivation in this country. And they export for about a billion dollars per year. I’m sure I’ll get to hear the exact numbers later on in the week.
I have to say, I’m curious about Colombia. If I remember correctly, I wrote my first article on the country about ten years ago. At that time, the Colombian currency, the peso, was very strong. Which was tough for the growers. Because their flowers were sold in dollars and they only received a few pesos for each dollar. I remember speaking to Colombian growers on the phone and they were all so miserable. There was no real hope for improvement either.
All of this was followed by the financial crisis. Their most important distribution market, the United States, was strongly affected. ‘Spread your risks’ became the new motto for Colombian growers. Stop focusing entirely on the USA and start looking for alternative markets. Europe for example, and the Russian market, which was booming at that time.
So it was hardly surprising that I bumped into various Colombian growers at a trade show in Malmö, three years ago. They’d decided that the Scandinavian market was quite interesting, too. And they also told me that the Colombian floricultural industry was doing very well. The peso had dropped in value, which was positive for their trade. In Poland and at the IFTF in Vijfhuizen last year, I heard the same story. A positive feeling prevailed.
I’m curious to see how things are now. Last year, nobody had heard of Irma and Maria. But those two ladies recently managed to completely disrupt all cargo transport through Miami, the most important hub for Colombian flowers. On top of that, pilots of the number one Colombian airline called a strike. Even if these events didn’t take place during a main flower season, they still don’t make for ideal circumstances. All in all, I wonder if things are still so rosy in Colombia. As for the current weather, it’s been raining cats and dogs here since I arrived. The aftermath of Maria or Irma perhaps? Who knows.
Oh, and yes, I did make it through customs alright. A few phone calls to the police and to Asocolflores had already taken away most of my worries beforehand. The police said that those six months should be considered more as a formality. Countries mention such long periods because they want to be sure that visitors’ passports don’t expire while they’re in the country. And did Christina of Asocolflores think it might be a problem that my passport was only valid for another five and a half months? “Not at all”, was her brief and cogent response.
Knowing that now, I should be able to visit Proflora and the growers here, with peace of mind.