Colombia flower exports broke the $1.5 billion mark for the first time in 2021 – a significant milestone for one of the South American country’s most important export commodities.
That is according to a report from investment promotion agency ProColombia, based on newly released figures from Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), which highlighted that between January and November 2021 the value of Colombia flower exports hit $1.544 billion (all figures in USD).
The previous highest figure for an 11-month period had been set in 2019, when the value of exports hit $1.46 billion, with ProColombia stating that the record was broken in 2021 after “the pandemic encouraged the purchase of flowers around the world because people stayed at home longer.”
The value of Colombia flower exports in the first 11 months of 2021 represents an increase of more than $250 million compared to the same period the previous year – a 20% growth that is due to higher prices and a 17% increase in the volume of exports, which hit 266.5 million kilos during last year’s surveyed period.
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Colombia is famed for its blooms and is responsible for an estimated 15% of the global supply of cut flowers, making it the second-largest producer in the world behind only the Netherlands. That includes producing almost a quarter of the global supply of roses, while Colombia also produces large quantities of chrysanthemums, carnations and lilies.
The massive size of the industry means that cut flowers, plants, and live trees represent Colombia’s fourth-largest export commodity by value, behind only hydrocarbons, gems and precious metals, and coffee.
According to ProColombia, the United States is by far the most significant market for Colombia flower exports, with a 16.1% increase in demand seen between 2020 and 2021 helping exports to the country hit $1.208 billion in the first 11 months of last year.
That increase in demand is relatively modest compared to other major importers of Colombian flowers, with exports to Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom reportedly increasing by 50%, 59.1%, and 28.8% respectively.
Other important destinations for Colombia flower exports include Japan, Spain, Russia, and Poland, with ProColombia reporting that the pandemic caused demand to increase in all of the top 27 importers of Colombian blooms.
According to Augusto Solano, president of the Colombian Association of Flower Exporters (Asocolflores), the industry employs close to 140,000 people and hit the $1.5 billion milestone despite considerable difficulties caused by the pandemic.
“Thanks to a coordinated effort, we were able to overcome many obstacles, especially in terms of logistics and transportation,” he was quoted as saying by ProColombia.
The regions of Colombia that exported the most flowers in 2021 included the capital district of Bogota ($696 million), the capital’s surrounding department (state) of Cundinamarca ($560.3 million), and the departments of Antioquia ($285.2 million), Risaralda ($1.2 million), and Atlantico ($836,000).
“The flower sector is a great example of how some Colombian products went from reactivation to growth, and how adapting to changing circumstances is key to capitalizing on new opportunities,” ProColombia President Flavia Santoro was quoted as saying in the report.
Strong Colombia flower exports highlight opportunities
While arguably not as well-known as some of the country’s other important export commodities – including coffee, emeralds, and gold – the strong showing for Colombia flower exports in 2021 underscores how critical the crop is to the country’s economy – both in terms of capital inflows and employment.
The flower industry in Colombia has ballooned over recent decades, thanks to the country’s fertile agricultural pastures, as well as the easy access to key markets in North America.
Colombia’s fertile land makes the agricultural sector a particularly attractive investment option, and as well as coffee, the country also boasts major crops of avocados, bananas, and papayas.
However, among investors the country is arguably more famous for the opportunities on offer in extractive industries, including oil production, coal mining, and the mining of gems, precious metals, and rare earths.
Beyond that, Colombia is being increasingly recognized for its tech and innovation industry, with second-largest city Medellin named one of Latin America’s new ‘Silicon Valleys,’ while a host of the biggest Latin American and international companies have a considerable presence in or nearby capital city Bogota.
The country is also home to a growing services sector, which now accounts for more than 60% of gross domestic product (GDP).
All of this, along with the country’s close political ties with the United States and long, vastly improved security situation compared to previous decades, and long democratic tradition, add up to make Colombia one of the most popular destinations in Latin America for foriegn direct investment.
As record Colombia flower exports last year also highlight, the economy is very much on the path to recovery following the turmoil of the global pandemic.
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