Flowers for Valentines Day

Some of the most beautiful floral arrangements I’ve seen were at Hotel Quito in Ecuador where we were staying on a hotel mission trip with Hope Pres, Memphis.  There were huge bouquets of the longest stemmed roses in the lobby with smaller stunning arrangements scattered throughout the hotel.  (The room I stayed in was in need of remodeling, but the views of the mountains from the upper level where we enjoyed buffet breakfasts each morning were spectucular.)

It turns out Ecuador accounted for 9% of the worlds cut flower exports in 2013. Colombia supplies 78% of all American cut flowers, followed by Ecuador at 15%.
According to an IB Times report from 2012, 90% of the flowers Americans buy on February 14th are imported, mainly from Colombia and Ecuador, competing to produce the best quality and highest quantity of roses for international (mostly American) buyers.

With the recent drop in value of the Russian ruble, Ecuador, the main exporter of flowers to Russia, is sending more of it’s products to the United States looking for “breaking” that market with low prices. Roses that were sold for 65 cents of dollar each in Russia, are estimated to cost closer to 45 cents in the United States with production costs estimated at 28 cents of dollar per stem.

When agronomists discovered in the 1960s that they could grow these beautiful roses in the Andes and then fly them within a few hours into the United States, the industry soon began moving to South America from places where roses had been cultivated domestically. They discovered roses thrive in the intense sunlight, dry air and year-round equatorial temperatures. Ecuador’s bio-diverse geography from the low coastal highlands to the high Andes (Sierra) plus the lower tropical Oriente and Amazon area has provided opportunities for great diversification from roses to other profitable ornamental flowers.  Gypsophila, Limonium, Liatris, Gerbera daisies, sunflowers, Clarkia, Daises pomporns, Ornamental pompoms and Novel pompoms and tropical blooms are exported as well.

As the quality and quantity of flowers produced for export increased, pressure mounted on these countries’ flower workers and their environments, resulting in a host of problems, from low pay and child labor to misuse of hazardous chemicals. Poor working conditions negatively impact the health of the flower workers. It’s estimated by the Labor Right Forum report that two-thirds of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer from work-related health problems, such as headaches, nausea, impaired vision, conjunctivitis, rashes, asthma, stillbirths, miscarriages, congenital malformations, and respiratory and neurological problems.

In recent years ther has been increasing pressure on frams to become “Fair Trade” certified, prompting many farms to clean up their practices, resulting in millions of fairly produced flowers being sold worldwide. Ecuador Fairtrade Association is a group of farms that produce Fairtrade Certified roses, callas and spray roses. The Fair Trade certification guarantees that employers pay decent wages, respect the right of their workers to join trade unions and provide good housing when relevant. The Fair Trade certification also demands the practice environmentally-friendly farming methods which reduce the use of pesticides, conserve energy and protect watersheds and wildlife.

Ecuador Fairtrade Association is a group of farms that produce Fairtrade Certified roses, callas and spray roses. Ten percent of the FOB price paid for the FTC roses goes to a fund (Fair Trade Premium) for flower workers to invest in community development projects like: small businesses, scholarships for workers and their kids, health centers and loans.