The obstacle course of Ecuadorian roses to reach the stalls of the world

e have experienced many local and international crises. We live in crisis, but we know how to manage”, says Eduardo Letort, head of the Hoja Verde company, which produces 35 million roses of 120 different varieties each year. Ecuador, where some 600 companies grow 450 varieties of roses, is the world’s third largest producer after the Netherlands and Colombia.

Burial requests on the rise due to Covid-19

“These have been very tough years, but we flower growers are very resilient. We have managed to adapt, we have become more efficient”explains Mr. Letort in his nursery in Cayambe, an Andean town near Quito.

In this highly competitive sector, Ecuadorian producers have notably explored new markets, taking advantage of the excellent reputation of their production. They also rationalized the use of fertilizers in the face of rising prices, first due to the pandemic, then because of the war in Ukraine, Russia being a main supplier of fertilizers.

In June, as the mobilization of the natives against the cost of living and the price of fuels hardened, the demonstrators sometimes attacked shipments of roses. Flowers also had to be thrown away because they rotted on the spot, unable to be evacuated due to road blockages.

Flower growers are concentrated on 5,800 hectares in the high Sierra region. In 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, sales represented $827 million, a less steep drop than expected compared to 2019 (880 million).

“We have seen that flowers, despite the pandemic, have become a necessary commodity. People wanted color, scents in their homes, it really became a staple.”, underlines Mr. Letort, which sends 5% of its production to France. Not to mention the increased requests for burials due to Covid-19.

An already complicated business

At the start of 2022, exports had already rebounded well. Between January and May, they generated 432 million dollars, against 417 over the same period in 2021. But the eighteen-day strike caused by the indigenous movements against the high cost of living has tarnished this optimism a little. For the president of the Association of Producers and Exporters Expoflores, Alejandro Martinez, the year 2022 “looked very good despite the Russia issue, with declines, but with a potential recovery at the end of the year”. “With the strike (native), it will be much more complicated” maintain the expected results, he predicts.

In 2021, Russia was the second largest market for Ecuadorian flowers (20%), behind the United States (40%). After the invasion of Ukraine, Russian purchases fell to 10%, according to Letort, who is also a local representative of Expoflores.

“The flower trade is difficult in itself, it does not take a strike, nor a pandemic, nor a war to be already complicated”, estimates Marco Peñaherrera, an intermediary who sells 120,000 roses a week in the United States. But he recognizes, without disclosing it, that his margin is sufficient to consider that “it’s a good business”.

The most beautiful in the world

Tall, up to 90 cm tall, bearing buds with abundant colorful petals, brilliant green leaves, Ecuadorian roses are struck as the most beautiful in the world.

“Because of quality, color, size, we always have an advantage in the market”explains Socorro Martinez, head of the Dutch company Dümmen Orange, located in Guachala.


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