LATIN AMERICAN TRADE BI-ANNUAL-Dole fresh flowers from Colombia are big business

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Air Cargo News  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTWhen consumers think fresh flowers, the name Dole may not come immediately to mind. Yet today, Dole Food Company, Inc. is the largest producer of fresh flowers in Latin America, with over 90% of its Latin American flowers shipped to North America via its Dole Fresh Flowers divisional headquarters in Miami, FL. Dole sells more than 50 million bouquets and consumer bunches annually in the United States, which equates to more than 5,700 bouquets and consumer bunches purchased every day.
Dole entered the fresh-cut flower business in 1998 and has been supplying the market with over 800 varieties of fresh-cut flowers ever since. These include roses, carnations, Alstroemeria, Aster, Campanula, Carnation, Delphinium, Eucalipto, Gerbera, Gysophila, Hydrangea, Kangaroo Paws, Larkspur, Lisianathus, Molucellas, Pompon, Roses, Snapdragon, Solidago, Statice, Stock, Sun Flower and Yarrow.
Over the years, Dole Fresh Flowers has obtained its flowers from more than 1,950 acres of production in Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. Colombia and Ecuador are the top two US suppliers of flowers among all countries, accounting in 2004 for 59% and 19%, respectively. The competitive edge these two countries possess in meeting US demand for flowers is attributable to a favorable climate, relatively low production costs, and adequate airfreight service and distribution infrastructure.
Dole maintains growing and production operations exclusively in Colombia and Ecuador, although it has been consolidating its operations overall, and closing operations in Ecuador.
In Colombia, Dole Fresh Flowers is affiliated with 13 farms totaling 388 hectares and employing approximately 6,266 people. The company accounts for up to 20% of the more than $906 million in annual exports from Colombia, and is that nation’s largest grower. Dole does not grow any flowers domestically.
More than 90% of its production is shipped into North America. Dole’s International Export division also ships product into the European Union, Russia, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. Its Miami facility handles all warehousing and distribution for the flowers. Most flowers are sold by major grocery store chains, and retailers, including Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is a big Dole Fresh Flowers customer.
While Dole Fresh Flowers finds many advantages producing flowers in South America, including lower operating costs, skilled labor and very good growing conditions, a primary obstacle is distance. The business is also complicated by the significant number of varieties of flowers and combinations of value-added products, such as bouquets and arrangements. Maintaining the cold chain from the farm in Colombia to a retailer somewhere in North America is a major feat.
Other challenges include the effect of foreign exchange volatility and security issues in the production countries and getting through US Customs.
Given that flowers are highly perishable with distinct selling channels in wholesale and mass the market, Dole Fresh Flowers relies on a complex logistics system to ensure maximum quality and freshness.
Flowers are flown from Bogotá, Colombia three days a week by charter arranged by Panalpina.
“We maintain a cold chain from start to finish,” reports Ulises Lam, receiving manager at the Dole Fresh Flowers divisional headquarters.
The strategy at Dole is to vertically integrate logistics operations and control the cool chain from the handling of the flowers at the farm all the way through to wholesaler and mass market customers. Being in control allows Dole to move flowers off the farm and into the United States in less than 24 hours.
To keep the flowers fresh, Dole operates its own modern coolers and handling facilities at both the Bogotá airport and Miami International Airport. Speeding the process, the company is the only Miami importer that can clear its own shipments through US Customs under refrigerated conditions.
“In Bogotá we make sure the product does not get onto the plane until the very last minut

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American Journal of Transportation