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By Barbara Stanton, Princeton, Missouri.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service in Bogota, Colombia, reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has created huge financial losses for one of Colombia’s biggest agricultural exports—fresh flowers.

Sales of Colombian flowers are down 40%, or $108 million, in April and May. The hit is especially harsh since many stay-at-home orders that started in March continued on over Mother’s Day, which is second only to Valentine’s Day in sales for the Colombian flower industry. Valentine’s Day sales had increased by 13.4% compared to 2019, just before the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were put into place in many of Colombia’s markets.

The Colombian Flower Exporters Association, Asocolflores, had originally feared an 80% drop in sales at the beginning of the COVID crisis in March. And while the actual 40% decrease is half of that, it’s still a significant loss of revenue to an industry that is a large part of the overall agricultural economy of the country.

Colombia grows about 20,000 acres of flowers, mostly under greenhouse conditions. The industry is a large employer of lower-skilled, female workers, to the tune of about 140,000 employees. More than 90% of Colombia’s flower production is exported, and in 2019 the U.S. accounted for just over 77%, or $1.2 billion of those exports.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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