Once again the great folks at HPP and Flor Ecuador have put on a fine show. The halls were busy and the booths were awash with roses. It was no surprise to see so many booths showing roses since Quito holds the title of “The Best Roses in the World”. I was invited to attend and cover the show so that I might give those not in attendance a chance to see, via my lens, what I was seeing through my eyes. If you review the images I have posted you will see two distinct themes. Beautiful Roses and Beautiful Women. What could be better?
Many of the exhibitors hire models to attract potential clients to their booths and this year was no exception. I am told that the ladies are imported from Colombia and Cuba with the explanation that Quito does not have such talent. I take exception to that since I have seen many attractive Ecuadorean ladies who work in the industry. However, I have come to the conclusion that the cosmetic doctors in Colombia must simply be better. I am not certain that the eye candy is necessary to snag clients but they sure make for good pictures.
This is really an international show where all sorts of languages can be overheard while cruising the aisles. The growers all seem to be striving to have a balanced customer list including thirty percent US, thirty percent Russian, thirty percent European and ten percent other.
When I put my proverbial ear to the ground I heard much talk about the growing dominance of the bouquet makers servicing the Mass Market business. More distressed farms are being bought up by these companies to service the Supermarkets and Big Box clients of the US and abroad. The big are getting bigger and are pulling away from those left behind. In no particular order, the major players are, The Queens Flowers, Passion Growers, Elite Flowers, Sunshine Bouquet, Colour Republic, USA Bouquet, Native Flowers, and Encore.
This trend is being felt in the wholesale markets as products can become scarce overnight. Take the acquisition of Denmar, the largest spray rose producer, by Passion Growers as an example and there is little doubt that the wholesale availability and price for sprays has gone down and up accordingly.
The other trend I learned about was more and more growers are starting plantations in Africa. Peter Ulrich, Owner of Esmeralda, who claimed to be taking it easy now that he sold his Miami office, has a large farm beginning there. As well, Hans Peter Hug, owner of Bellaflor, has broken ground on a 75 acre plot in Ethiopia. Most of this activity is centered around servicing the European markets, but some products are already entering the US market. I do not think the US will ever be more than a minor part of this expansion for Logistics reasons. However, US cities, where there are good passenger airline connections, could see more.
The traffic and roads in Quito are not for the faint of heart. I visited a number of farms and one could surmise that the farms do not want to be found. Fortunately, our press bus had a guide to decipher the directions. Left at the big tree and then follow the dirt road to the fork, go left past the grazing cows and you are there. However, once you get “there” you will not likely see a company sign, just a gate with a guard. For security reasons the farms prefer to be obscure…. and they are.
Once you gain access, the fun begins and so does the exercise at 7,000’+ above sea level. Each farm appears more or less the same until you look closely. Some are absolutely beautiful while others are super interesting; some are simply practical and some are just ordinary. Most are very engaged with their employees, their environment and their products. All are worth your time to visit if you get the opportunity.
The new airport in Quito was a welcome and pleasant surprise over the old one that sat smack in the middle of the city. This new airport is closer to most growers ,but not so convenient for passengers since it can take over two hours to get there during business hours. With that said, they have built and are building good new access roads and bridges to make the journey more practical.
At the airport there are new cargo facilities with better refrigeration and logistics. Growers are able to deliver shipments to a reduced amount of buildings housing the cargo agencies. A good example is the formation of the new company, Logiztik Alliance Group which is a partnership between G&G Cargo, TransInternational Cargo, Dial Cargo and Ecucarga. Previously these were all in separate buildings, now they are in one.
Finally, I was pleased to see larger boxes being packed and shipped. Over the past 10 years the boxes have gotten smaller and smaller, making it easier to ship direct. But since the change in air freight rates now based on volumetric weight, those paying the freight are looking for better pack size to reduce air space in the boxes.
Looking forward to 2016