Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Blooms from Colombia

Published:Sunday | March 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica imported fresh flowers valued at US$407,361 from Colombia for the period January to November 2014, and that country's trade promotion agency is aiming to gin up even more business.

Carlos Gonzalez, the director for the Caribbean at ProColombia, says Jamaica mainly imports chrysanthemums, roses and carnations from his country.

ProColombia works with importers and wholesalers "and also we cater to retailers or small businesses", said Gonzalez.

He said exports of chrysanthemums to Jamaica from January to November were valued at US$139,000; roses at US$118,000 and carnations US$51,000.

ProColombia identified Gorgeous Flowers as a top importer, but while the company confirmed their relationship it declined comment for this story.

Checks by Sunday Business show that Jamaica does not currently have a blooming fresh flower industry. Supplies come from as far as The Netherlands, which leads Colombia in world fresh flower exports. The South America country is No. 2 supplier overall, but claims to be the global leader in carnation sales.

Around the 1980s, several Jamaican companies had invested heavily in growing fresh flowers, according to horticulture veteran and managing director of Shields & Shields, Geoffrey Shields, but the sector collapsed as the growing conditions locally made it hard to compete with Colombian produce, he said.

"...Because the temperature is not quite low enough, what they found is that we could not really compete with the size and quality flowers being produced by Colombia," Shields told Sunday Business.

Colombian growers get better yields, he said, because of the country's closeness to the equator which provided the higher temperatures needed to foster the horticultural industry.

Jamaica's fresh flower industry was plagued as well by what Shields described as tedious logical arrangements to facilitate exports, as well as high freight costs.

He says, however, that there is window of opportunity for the resurgence of Jamaica's anthuriums as an export industry, because "it had a big name abroad, and still does".

A blight wiped out the large-scale production of anthuriums some years ago, but conditions have since improved. They do not require the same temperatures as roses and chrysanthemums, making them a more viable bet, Shields said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com