With more than 6,000 hectares of ornamental crops, Ecuador has been one of the largest producers in the world for many years. Tens of thousands of families are financially dependent on the flower industry and the sector has contributed significantly to the country’s prosperity. Strangely enough though, domestic consumption is close to zero. Less than 1% of the total flower production is sold locally.
The population isn’t interested in flowers. Ecuadoreans love going to the cinema, going out for a meal or going out to dance. They don’t love flowers. Not as a birthday gift and not for personal use. Has someone invited you over to their home? Just bring dessert or a bottle of wine. Bringing a bunch of flowers isn’t part of the local culture. Weddings and funerals ask for flowers, but that’s about it.
There aren’t many flowers on offer in the supermarket, either. The typical assortment consists of few single-bloom bunches, some culinary herbs and perhaps a stray kalanchoe.
In fact, for many nurseries, it’s a conscious choice not to supply to the local market. On the one hand, simply because it doesn’t make enough money, and on the other hand, because it comes with certain risks. The average price that local traders pay for a bunch of roses is one and a half dollars. That translates into 6 cents per stem. And for the unsorted B quality, the price is even lower than that. Bearing in mind that the cost price is around 30 cents, I can understand why growers would rather throw their flowers on the compost heap instead of selling them to a local trader!
And then, the risks. Whether you call them clever or cheaters, some traders sort the flowers they purchased for the local market, only to send the best ones abroad. To Peru or Bolivia, for example. Or even to North America. For a grower, that’s like shooting yourself in the foot. There’s also a chance that your locally sold stems aren’t used for consumption, but for illegal propagation activities. This is a risk that applies to new varieties, in particular.
Just one more comment about the lack of interest in flowers. There’s one exception: the Dutch tulip! A florist in Quito was offering them as a Valentine’s Day special this week. A bunch of five tulips for the special price of 27 dollars. A bargain, isn’t it?
While stocks last, of course….
Victor van Dijk,
Area manager South America, FleuraMetz
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