A Sea of Roses
Similar to the love and appreciation which a man demonstrates by giving flowers to his beloved, Bayer cultivates roses with passion. In Colombia, one of the largest producers of flowers in the world, the company is dedicated to implementing new technologies and innovative practices to ensure that those beautiful, large gems from the garden can always be given with love – a Colombian rose can have 8 to 12 cm diameter!!!
However, Colombia’s prominent place on the world scene did not happen overnight. I was still only a few years old when I began to realize the importance of flowers. My father had always grown flowers and experienced the huge challenges associated with caring for this delicate cultivar. He didn’t have the benefit of today’s technology, research and focus.
It wasn’t until the 1960s when Colombians with knowledge passed down through generations together with pioneering investors started to make Colombia excel in the cultivation of flowers. This marriage of knowledge and entrepreneurship produced many fruits, and has transformed Colombia into a nation that exports 210 tons of fresh cut flowers a year, with 15% of the total occurring in just one day: February 14, Valentine’s Day.
The technology of the greenhouses in Bogota’s sabana, where the production of Colombian roses takes place because of its favourable weather conditions, was improved. Growers invest up to US$ 10.000 per hectare on the most promising roses and seek advice from Bayer to find out the latest products and solutions.
The growers and Bayer are investing in both chemical and biological technologies to uncover solutions to mitigate disease pressure and help flowers last longer so they can travel to faraway places. Caring for each phase in the cultivation process is a challenge that has never been so essential. A stain on the petals, a fungus at inspection time is enough to result in the incineration of the entire shipment.
Bayer sales manager responsible for flowers, banana, sugar cane and palm oils in Colombia.
A Sea of Roses
Phytobac, a sealed container filled with a substrate composed of topsoil and chopped straw, is another technology used to solve the problem of water pollution on farms. Through this system (still in pilot phase in Colombia), residues of active ingredients originated from the filling, cleaning and washing of spray equipment are retained and degraded by microbial means.
Bayer is also working to minimize our environmental impact and optimize our use of water. One example is treating the residue of Argent (silver) to enable reuse of water.
Behind the bustling rose markets is a very organized process bursting with sentiments. Women comprise most of the workforce in the cultivation of roses. They are responsible for serenely caring and choosing the most beautiful and healthy flowers during post-harvest. Only a delicate and sensitive eye can identify the most beautiful flowers, a gentle female hand is entrusted with the task. The process is becoming more efficient and effective; it will never be perfect if it lacks the one basic ingredient for success – human sensibility.
Flowers’ market in Colombia
Beginnings – In 1965, exports to United States began, which increased the number of producers.
First, Colombia was successful with Chrysanthemums (or mums), followed by carnations and finally roses. The country has 6.000 hectares of flowers of which 2.500 are dedicated to roses.
Exports – Flower trade is among the top activities in Colombia’s economy. The production is for export only, with United States, Europe and Russian as main importers. Colombia exports US$ 1.350 million, and is only second to The Netherlands as the leading supplier of fresh flowers to the United States, which buys 75% of the production.
Source: Associación Colombiana de Exportadores de Flores (ASOCOLFLORES)
Local workforce: 600.000 Colombians work in the sector and 65% are women.
Production: The production process has been developed to respond to specific demands throughout the year. The most important date is Valentine’s Day, followed by Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving in the United States.