A lovely bouquet may brighten up your dining room table, but those flowers have quite a long journey before making it to your home. The voyage from farm to vase is carefully constructed to ensure that flowers are in top condition when they arrive, beginning the moment the stems are harvested. Most of these flowers make the journey by airfreight via privately chartered flights.
Throughout most of 2017, importation of fresh-cut flowers to the United States increased by 5%, with top exports from South American countries, as well as the Netherlands, Canada, and Mexico. Miami is the top destination for flower imports, with 91% of the product arriving through what is often considered the “gateway to Latin America.”
Recently, the flower industry has responded to specific challenges facing airfreight and the import-export process. Flowers are usually shipped by air as part of the “cold chain,” which requires a special packing and transport process to ensure flower quality upon arrival. Flowers must be placed in specific temperature conditions, palletized, stored in cold facilities at the airport, cleared through export customs, obtain a phytosanitary certification, and loaded onto commercial or cargo flights.
These airfreight costs are continually rising for a variety of reasons. For example, the price of jet fuel has increased and continued to do so almost weekly. Similarly, a higher demand for aircrafts in Asia and the Middle East has presented more competition in the airline industry. Other factors affecting airfreight costs include political situations in countries (such as elections) and competition for aircraft space from Industries such as fruit, seafood, and art.
Mother nature, of course, is an unavoidable factor where airfreight is concerned. During the most recent set of hurricanes in September, there were no flights for three days, which is challenging to an industry that flies flowers six days a week. What’s more, flights regularly being used for flower transport were being repurposed by FEMA to bring supplies and emergency aid to affected areas.
Flower companies have started to explore other options, such as sea freight to alleviate expensive air costs and lack of space. Even though that alternative is a possibility, more tests and efficiencies need to be completed before that becomes a viable solution. All indications are that airfreight for the upcoming valentines holiday will prove to be very challenging.
We at Equiflor are working extremely hard to avoid delays during shipping for Valentine’s Day 2018. We will continue to update our customers, as more information becomes available.