Hydrangeas are the 5th most important export flower of Colombia in terms of value and the 2nd in terms of production area. Both, volume and value are still increasing. The United States is still by far the most important export market for these flowers, but volumes to China, Russia, France, Malaysia, Qatar have shown an exponential growth. Colombian export association Asocolflores summarized the 2017 export figures of Colombian hydrangeas and compared it with those of 2016. Catalina Arango, Commercial Director at Flores Del Este, one of Colombia’s largest hydrangea growers explains the trends.
Volume and value
After the rose, the carnation, chrysanthemum and alstroemeria, the hydrangea is the most important flower crop of Colombia in terms of value and in terms of production area it is the most important crop (1,250ha) after roses (2,580 ha). In 2016, 17,566 tons of hydrangeas with a total value of over 72.5 million USD left the country. From January till September 13,304 tons of flowers, worth almost 56 million USD, left the country in 2016, and 14,453 tons of flowers, worth almost 58 million, in 2017. This is a 3.4 percent increase in value and a 8.6 percent increase in volume.
Why this increase?
According Arango, there are several reasons for this increase of production volume.
“First of all, the strong dollar made many potato, strawberries, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables growers in Antioquia, a region where most of the hydrangeas are grown, then decide to change to growing hydrangeas. It is a low investment to start growing this flower and will give them higher yields.” And according to Arango, this might be the main driver for these growers. “Most of the hydrangea growers are smaller than one hectare and all sell their product to big brokers without a good infrastructure (their post-harvest are in garages) and transport the flowers on motorcycles and small trucks without cool chain. Most of them are not quality driven oriented.”
A second reason for the increase in production volume is the growing popularity for hydrangeas. “Due to the large size of the flowers and the variety of colors available, the popularity of hydrangeas continues to grow. They are frequently used in bouquets and large arrangements. You often see them in flower decorations for weddings, parties and events”, she says.
“Finally, there are new programs from the government to incentivise people to plant hydrangeas. All of these is resulting in lower prices in general for the Colombian flowers.”
And the hydrangeas mainly go to the United States, over 80 percent in the period between January and September 2017, followed by Canada (4.5%), Korea (3.2%), Japan (2%) and the Netherlands (1.5%). And Arango expects the Colombian exports to Korea to increase. “It is pertinent to remember that the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) between Colombia and Korea will bring the progressive reduction of tariffs, which started from July 2016. For the export of flowers, annual reduction is 5% and will reach 0 by 2020.”
Other interesting trends to notice from the export figures of Asocolflores is the exponential growth in export numbers to China, Russia, France, Malaysia and Qatar. Comparing the months from January till September of 2016 with these months in 2017, Colombia exported over 100 percent more hydrangeas to these countries.
China has been a growing market for Flores Del Este too. “China is changing: over 15 million people are getting out of poverty and joining the middle class every year. this equals to higher purchasing power and also because of the westernization of consumption trends (oriented to luxury), this means it opens the doors for the Colombian flowers in market niches such as hotels and weddings”, explains Arango.
The most important use of the hydrangeas for the Asiatic markets are: events, weddings, hotels and restaurants. “It is one of the most sought-after varieties for weddings because of the meaning the Chinese attribute to it: hydrangeas symbolize “being together”. The favorite colors of hydrangeas are blue, pink and kiwi green. The production of hydrangeas is low in China and Colombia is one of its main suppliers. The hotel industry in China is growing too. It had a great boost thanks to the Olympic Games of Beijing in 2008, which demanded the construction of a large number of hotels that, in turn, increased the demand of flowers.”
And next to an increasing demand, the year round consumption makes China an interesting market too. “Flower sales increase during the first quarter, for the celebrations of the Chinese New Year (by the end of January or at the beginning of February, according to the Chinese lunar calendar), Saint Valentine’s Day (February 14) and the International Women’s Day (March 8). The sales also increase for New Year’s Day (January 1), Mother’s Day (in May), the Chinese Saint Valentine (seventh day of the seventh lunar month), Labor Day (May 1), Teacher’s Day (September 10) and National Day (October 1).”
Over the years, more growers started to grow hydrangeas in the country. The top five hydrangea exporters are Guamito SAS, Flores Del Este, C.I. San Francisco Gardens, Comercializadora Internacional Zion Flowers Sociedad Por Acc and FlorAndina. These five companies are responsible for over 17 percent of the total value of hydrangeas in USD (almost 58 million) that has been exported in 2017 (between January and September).
Author: Elita Vellekoop