What does the equator have to do with the global flower industry? That the divider of hemispheres runs through some of the biggest flower producing nations. Tropical climates, year-round sunlight, water abundance and rich soils have turned Ecuador, Colombia and Kenya into the world's flower farms whose market shares keep growing. We talked with Colombian KN FreshChain experts Monica and Christian, who share a wealth of experience with flower farmers to help them grow (their businesses).
A social business
When talking to Monica and Christian, the world is still battling Covid-19 and they are dialing in on a Zoom meeting from their homes. In Monica's background, a bright bouquet of yellow and red roses draws the attention. Christian's background reveals a part of the Andes mountain range veiled in clouds. Yet their warm-hearted and sincere greetings are even clearer give-away signs of their nationality. "We are 100% Colombian", Monica confirms to eliminate any doubts. "And Christian and I have been working together for many years. We are very proud of the close relationships that we have built with the farms and the customers that we work with." Clearly, they are also very proud of their nation which ranks 2nd in the world in flower exports.
From the way the two flower experts talk about their profession, you can tell that it is more than a job. It is the result of years of hard work that started back in the day when Christian established his very own flower-focused freight forwarding company from scratch. The success that followed was noticed by Kuehne+Nagel. In 2006 they joined forces. "The success of my company was based on a committed team providing excellent services and forging great relationships with airlines, exporters and consignees around the world. I recognized the same factors in Kuehne+Nagel and I'm proud to be a part of it for almost 14 years now", Christian says.
With access to Kuehne+Nagel's network, Monica and Christian are joined by a global team that shares the mission which drives them each day: empowering farmers to tap into new markets. Christian: "We see ourselves as partners of our customers and we regularly organize presentations to help their businesses. We share, for example, information about the airlines situation, trends in the markets, or forecasts for the holidays so that together we can anticipate the work that has to be done to make sure that flower vendors around the world have their flowers available for sale when peak seasons are there."
For the Colombian duo, the economic and social importance of the flower industry in their country gives them another incentive to stand by their customers as partners and consultants - for better and for worse. "You have to know that in Colombia the flower industry employs around 100,000 people, many of whom are poorly educated single mothers. Some farms offer more than jobs; they have their own schools to educate children. Knowing that, it is all the more rewarding to help some of our local customers grow from a tiny business to major players in some markets as we have been able to do over the years", says Monica. However, there is no discrimination of non-local customers. "What unites everyone in the flower business is the passion they have for it", she adds. Passionate growers and experienced logistics professionals, a perfect marriage.
When after a temperature-controlled journey the flower finally arrives in someone's home to fulfill its final purpose, chances are that its admirers are clueless about the hands that watered its seeds or the minds that planned its logistics. For something as relatively short-lived as the beauty of a flower, a lot of work goes behind it. "Most flower varieties come from Germany or Holland, but the seeds are grown elsewhere and then again distributed around the world. The transportation most of the time happens via air logistics as speed is of the essence, along with temperature and humidity. Then there are other things to think about, such as not shipping them together with certain fruits. Our KN FreshChain specialist are well-trained and know how to safely get the farmers' from point A to point B."
When flower frenzy seasons such as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day are around the corner, our logistics teams work around the clock so that you can make women around the world happy. "I recall one customer filled up 300 Boeing 747 within just 2 weeks to fly his flowers around the world. That's really amazing. You have to work practically 24/7 in these high seasons but it's worth it when afterwards you receive a lot of gratitude from the customers", says Christian. Fun fact: Due to Covid passenger planes were used as charters and filled with flowers to meet the high worldwide demand of flowers during the holidays.
Roses, carnations, chrysanthemums...The varieties are as abundant as their symbolic meanings, from Japanese rituals to birthday gifts. And – Monica mentions – flowers also follow fashion trends. "In Russia they want flowers that are fully open, in Europe they prefer to buy them in a more closed state to see them blossoming. The length of the stems also matter and there are even changing colour preferences depending on the year or the location. It's a fashion business. And we are happy to be a part of it with the KN FreshChain team.”
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