Flower Producers Go Hi-Tech
The market for cut flowers is strong and growing about 15% a year. The worldwide market for produce is about 60% and for cut flowers it’s estimated to be around 40%. That's a lot of flowers!
Hydroponics is a major force in the production of commercial cut flowers worldwide. Hydroponic production is high tech. Facilities have completely computerized climate control, carbon dioxide enrichment, winter heating, summer cooling, and have computerized the control of irrigation and fertilization. Talk about taking over Mother Nature's responsibilities!
The current constraints on producing hydroponic flowers for the global market are not much different then for many other things. Simply stated, it’s related to trade agreements and competition from developing countries.
Roses are native to the United States. In the 1970s and 1980s most roses sold in the US were produced in the US, with California retaining 60% of the national production. But a preferential trade agreement with Colombia in 1991 allowed the roses of Columbia to take over 40% of the US market, destroying the market for many California growers. Today most of the commercial roses grown come from Mexico. But most of the ones used in the US are from South America.
There are over 300 varieties of roses grown for commercial sale. By producing the roses with hydroponics, the blooms can be managed to be the perfect size and can be programmed to be at a perfect bloom stage at exactly the right day, Valentine’s on February 14th.
There are 41 countries now competing in cut flower production, with Japan, The Netherlands, and USA dominating the market. These three countries produce half of the world’s commercial flowers, while using only 20% of the flower production land. Most of the high value flowers are produced in greenhouses or intensive agriculture farms using drip irrigation with nutrient imbued water.
Most commercial flowers are grown by about 10,000 growers and sold through two huge flower auction houses in Holland. These auction houses sell to buyers who then distribute the flowers to worldwide markets. It is not unheard of that flowers grown in Israel will be shipped to Holland, auctioned off, and then shipped right back to Israel.
The flower auction of Aalsmeer has about 160 acres of greenhouse space for the daily auction of cut flowers. Each day approximately 14 million flowers and 1 million plants are auctioned. That means three billion flowers and 400 million plants annually from about 8,000 nurseries. Prices range from 10 cents a stem to $1.00 a stem for most flowers. These Dutch auctions control 65% of the global wholesale cut flower market.
There are about 175 varieties of flowers now in the global market, with some being more popular than others. Top selling varieties are roses, hydrangea, chrysanthemum, tulips, lily, carnation, African daisy, and freesia.
Next time your loved ones send flowers, imagine the machinery behind the cultivation, selling, and shipping of those fragrant odes to love.
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