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An analysis of the Cold Chain of a Valentine’s Day flower

Paper Type: Free Assignment Study Level: University / Undergraduate
Wordcount: 2493 words Published: 6th Nov 2020

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The process of organising Valentine’s Day flowers

Valentine’s Day is arguably the biggest day in the calendar for the global flower industry.  Based on the findings of a report from Rabobank flower exports worldwide exceed $20 billion annually. Although floral trends are constantly evolving roses remain a popular staple of the Valentines Day market.

““Red roses are traditionally the most sought-after flower, but demand for others including tulips, Peruvian lilies, chrysanthemums and mini-carnations is also high. A rose is a truly global product. Behind every Valentine’s Day rose, there is an extensive network of people from all over the world - from the farmer, shipper, auctioneer and retailer all co-operating to transport roses from field to hand in a matter of days” according to Alex Tabarrok, economist at George Mason University.

“You’re going to find our roses primarily coming out of South America, while our other varieties like lilies and tulips primarily come domestically from our California partners,” said 1-800-Flowers.com Vice President of Merchandising Alfred Palomares.

Colombia has been ranked the world’s second largest exporter with a $1 billion floral industry, according to government agency ProColombia. A 2015 report from the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service showed that 20,000 acres of flowers are grown in Colombia annually. Colombia typically ships in excess of 4 billion roses to the United States annually, with a vast quantity of these being transported to supply the Valentines Day flower industry.

 Undoubtably the biggest obstacle for the Valentines fresh flower industry is the forecasting delivery involved in ensuring that this perishable commodity reaches the North American market considering weather and transportation forecasting as a priority.

Long before a bouquet is ready to be delivered to the consumer, major floral companies in the United States have already begun executing the business end of delivering flowers for Valentine's Day and this planning begins months in advance. Many popular Valentine’s Day flowers travel thousands of miles using a cold chain delivery to reach the consumer.

The cold chain refers to the process of controlling the temperature of perishable goods from the point of origin to the point of distribution and consumption and this methodology helps to maintain the quality of cut flowers and maximises their lifespan as by ensuring flowers remain cooled to around 33 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit assists them in surviving their journey. If the flowers experience any interruption in the cold chain enroute to their destination, it can result in up to a 20- 40% reduction in their lifespan, even once they’re returned to cooler conditions.

In order to mitigate the risk of product loss enroute it is wise for distributors to continually monitor and reassess capacity cushions to account for product loss due to wilting, interruptions in the cold chain, malfunctions in refrigeration and delays in transport due to unforeseen weather conditions.

The timing of Valentine’s Day means winter weather is a perennial threat. Winter snowstorms are frequent on the East Coast of the USA, consequently impacting the delivery schedule of flowers to distributors and consumers. Valentine’s Day flower sales and deliveries can be significantly affected depending on weather conditions on the lead up to the event.

The Valentines Day holiday puts a considerable strain on the capacity of temperature-controlled transporters, forcing excess volume onto carriers who may not be properly equiped, have less efficient schedules, and less experience in handling flowers. When forecasting for Valentine’s Day it is crucial to have an accurate estimate of demand as ordering too much inventory can result in lost inventory, while too little risks squandering a prime selling opportunity.

Source: https://onlinebusiness.syr.edu/blog/floral-supply-chain-valentines-day/

An analysis and evaluation of the interaction between Columbia’s floral supply chain and the USA

The evolution of the Colombian cut flower industry illustrates how a strategically assessed market system and evaluated supply chain strategy enables a region to effectively coordinate its economic activities in an efficient manner. Cut flowers are now the nation’s leading non-traditional export and the fourth largest earner of foreign exchange for the nation. 

Colombia’s development of improved air transportation and infrastructure networks allowed greater market accessibility and allowed growers to shift production to areas with more favourable growing conditions and climate, better land and reduced labour costs. The US economy in turn has also benefited from the success of the Colombian cut flower industry as this has created increased employment opportunities due to the necessity to handle and care for the increasing volume of flowers throughout the supply chain at both a wholesale and retail level.

An efficacious cold chain network has been instrumental in ensuring the successful transportation and distribution of Colombian cut flowers and Colombia has developed an envious supply chain strategy with the USA to ensure that cut flowers can be transported from the grower to the US consumer within days.

Numerous early shipments of cut flowers were destroyed due to heat while awaiting inspection by customs officials in Colombia. Avianca, the nations’ major air carrier, also monopolised the air carrier market and displayed an obvious disregard for the manner flowers were handled during transport. The airline refused to make any special provisions and considered transportation of flowers as secondary to the transportation of passengers. To solve this problem two companies, Floramerica and Jardines de los Andes, encouraged other airlines to enter the industry using specialised refrigerated air carriers dedicated to transporting cut flowers internationally on a daily basis allowing greater flexibility in forecasting delivery. This also provided a reduction in aviation costs for Colombian growers and introduced more competition into the transportation sector.

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Colombian growers have been instrumental in developing a sophisticated network of receiving and distribution facilities in Miami. Through ASOCOLFLORES, Colombian growers worked together to form a common handling company in Miami called Transcold. This company unloads the cut flowers into refrigerated storage areas, preparing them for expedited customs inspection prior to refrigerated freight forwarding to wholesalers throughout the USA. Another important and decisive measure taken by Colombian growers was to establish wholly owned importer-distributor companies in Miami. This allowed for the elimination of third-party brokerage companies, cost reduction and increased control over the speed and efficiency of the supply chain process. The existence of already established distribution systems, combined with the greater density and purchases of buyers along the shipping routes, means that the transportation costs and supply time of selling Colombian flowers in Eastern markets is below that of flowers shipped from the West coast (Morrow 1989).

Imports of cut flowers have helped limit the sharp increase in prices that result during the peak demand-low domestic supply periods, with Valentine’s Day being a primary example of this peak demand – low domestic supply modality. The reduced prices offered by Colombian cut flowers have in turn stimulated U.S. consumers' demand for cut flowers. The increased year-round availability of low-cost cut flowers has reduced the costs and risks associated with holding large inventories of flowers and this in turn has made it practical for flowers to be sold by non-traditional outlets such as supermarkets and street vendors who can quickly order and receive Colombian cut flowers within 24 - 48 hours.

The effects of government interventions, economic outlook and geopolitics on the Columbian cut flower sector

Colombia has held a competitive advantage in the cut flower industry for the last three decades, however it has also faced challenges such as the revaluation of the Colombian peso. Conversely it has also received enormous trade preferences from the U.S. and subsidies from the Colombian government. According toOmaira Páez Sepúlveda “Colombian flower producers have enjoyed the excitement of becoming more competitive to increase profits but the neoliberal economic recipe used to sustain the industry focuses on an increase in the productivity of workers, reducing labour costs and taking advantage of more job “flexibility” and forms of “precarious work” such as contract labour to exploit the workforce”. The labour planning strategy primarily implemented by Columbian flower producers is an FDE policy where labour is treated as a variable cost and mainly conducted by women. 

“The impacts of the revaluation of the peso, the economic downturn in many consumer countries, and the general economic behaviour of the sector indicates that the floriculture sector is based on a model of production that on the one hand violates worker rights and on the other hand demonstrates its economic unfeasibility” (Sepúlveda, 2008).

Within the framework of US legislation to combat drug trafficking from Colombia and create globalisation of Latin American economies, the United States established the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) in 1991, now more commonly known as the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). Since the enactment of this policy, Colombian flowers can enter the US market without tariffs, generating conditions even more favourable for the growth of the cut flower industry.

Source: The Flower Industry’s Impacts on Colombia on Mother’s Day: The Development of Colombia’s Flower Industry as an Outgrowth of American Geopolitical Ambition, Dr. Birsen Filip, 2018

Following the passage of the United States - Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (FTA) in 2012, a shipment of Colombian ­flowers was the first product to arrive in United States under the legislative change, marking an end to trade tariffs on the majority of Colombian products. The cut ­flower industry was identified as a priority sector in the US-Colombia Labour Action Plan, which was set up as a pre-requisite for the implementation of the FTA between the two countries in response to widespread complaints about labour-related issues in Colombia. The Labour Action Plan (henceforth LAP) promised to improve conditions for workers and a to support a trade union movement that faced steep obstacles, including the highest rates of anti-union violence in the world, and it was used as political justification to implement the FTA. As Colombia is Latin America's oldest and most stable democracy the country experiences relatively peaceful changes of government and is considered stable (Miller, 2017).


The year 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the first shipment of Colombian cut ­flowers exported to the international market. Flown from Bogota to Miami on October 18th, 1965, this shipment was worth $20,000 and coincided with the foundation of the migration of an industry in search of cheap labour, fertile soil, and an equatorial climate that provides 12 hours of sunshine all year (Wyss, 2015). By the late 1960s, fuelled in part by fears of the spread of communism in Latin America, hundreds of millions of dollars in grants began to pour into Colombia’s agricultural sector from the US Government in hopes of increasing economic cooperation between the two countries (Fairbanks, & Lindsey, 1999).

This co-operation has continued over the decades to secure a thriving and co-operative collaboration between these two nations to ensure a successful cold chain supply of cut flowers during peak demand – low domestic supply periods such as Valentines Day. The provision of receiving and distribution facilities in Miami has allowed for more flexibility around forecasting demand as fresh inventory is available at a minimal notice period allowing a continuous direct supply of good quality flowers and a well-established US distribution system has assisted in mitigating much of the risk involved in event and delivery forecasting.


  • Fairbanks, & Lindsey, (1999). How Colombia became the king of Valentine’s Day,” Miami Herald, February 2015. http://www.miamiherald.com/ news/nation-world/world/americas/colombia/article9755300.html.
  • Miller, N. (2017). “Mother’s Day in the Flower Fields Labor Conditions and Social Challenges for Colombia’s Flower Sector Employees”. The Project for International Accompaniment and Solidarity, May, 2017.
  • Morrow, F. (1989). "Flowers: Global Subsector Study." IED, PPR Working Paper No. 17. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
  • Palomares, A. (2019). “How floral companies prepare Valentine's Day flower bouquets for delivery to your doorstep”. https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/how-floral-companies-prepare-valentines-day-flower-bouquets-for-delivery-to-your-doorstep-2/432387
  • Sepúlveda, O.P. (2008). “2008 Report on the Colombian Flower Sector: Labour conditions and the crisis in the sector.” Corporacion Cactus; January, 2009.
  • Tabarrok, A (2015). “Valentines Day: Behind the flower trade.”https://www.cnbc.com/2015/02/12/valentines-day-behind-the-flower-trade.html
  • Wyss, J. (2015) “How Colombia became the king of Valentine’s Day,” Miami Herald, February 2015. http://www.miamiherald.com/ news/nation-world/world/americas/colombia/article9755300.html.


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