How Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success

Staff
14 Min Read

Colombia is a country whose name has long remained synonymous with exceptional flowers and a booming floriculture industry. This has cemented its status as one of the world’s leading flower producers and exporters. The country’s flourishing floriculture industry has, over the years, ensured that Colombia is a leader in flower exports in the Latin American region. As a result, the country is renowned for its diverse flower varieties that grace markets worldwide. 

This remarkable feat is, in no small part, due to the efforts of the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters – Asociación Colombiana de Exportadores de Flores (Asocolflores). Established over five decades ago, Asocolflores has, since its inception, been the driving force behind the industry’s international floriculture success. The association thrives on building the country’s competitiveness in major international markets and championing sustainable practices that have become a hallmark of Colombian flowers.

The Birth of Asocolflores and Its Successes Years Later

Colombia is a country of many unique diversities. A country in which, for instance, the snow-peaked Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in the north easily juxtapose with the verdant lushness of the Amazon rainforest in the south and unique weather conditions that support a unique flora and fauna biodiversity. Its thriving tropical rainforests, also, host thousands of species of plants and flowers. 

 

Carnations from the Colombian grower Flores Aurora.
Photo by @floresauroracolombia

 

With these, amongst its other obvious gems, the country’s picturesque landscapes are just as diverse as they are awe-inspiring! But whereas these — and many other — unique characteristics are, on their own, quite something to behold, Colombia’s air also hums with the buzz of millions of pollinators attracted to, and nourished by the country’s ever-blossoming floriculture industry’s flowers. 

Hundreds of flower farms dot the landscape, mainly in the Savannah of Bogotá, as well as Antioquia, and elsewhere, especially in the central region of the country, making the country’s floriculture industry an important one in the global flower trade. And this is the point where Asocolflores comes in.

 

 Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @grupovegaflor

 

Founded in 1973 as a non-profit guild organization with a clear mission, Asocolflores which brings together the country’s flower growers represents and promotes Colombia’s flower-growing industry in international markets, and drives the country’s comprehensive floriculture development. 

The association was formed to address the challenges faced by the then-nascent industry, including access to markets, research, transportation, and certification. With a key focus on social responsibility amongst other issues, Asocolflores sought to improve the general flower industry, the quality of life for workers and their families, as well as support vulnerable sectors of the population.

 

 Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @grupovegaflor

 

Back then, the industry faced numerous challenges, including a lack of infrastructure, limited access to technology, and fierce competition from established players. However, Asocolflores’ founders only saw the immense potential of Colombian flowers in the international market. They recognized the unique advantages of the country’s ideal climate, influenced by its proximity to the equator, fertile soils, and skilled workforce, and were keen to harness these strengths to drive the industry forward.

Thus, years later, Augusto Solano, the current president of Asocolflores, acknowledges that there have been great achievements in this industry and that the organization has (and continues to) played its part — a key part in that — in creating the pulse around Colombian flowers globally.

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Augusto Solano Mejia, the President of Asocolflores at a Society of American Florists (SAF) event.
Photo by @flowersofcolombia

 

Through its five pillars of advocacy and representation of the growers’ – and flower industry – interests, providing information for action and decision-making, ensuring sustainable floriculture practices, promoting floriculture innovation, and facilitating marketing, the Bogota-headquartered Asocolflores has done it all to ensure that the Colombian flower is one of the very best globally. Essentially, these five pillars form the basis of Asocolflores’ approach to achieving more and better results in the flower sector.

Asocolflores:

“At Asocolflores, we strengthen sustainable floriculture in Colombia so that our flowers generate well-being and inspiring experiences.”

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Colombian hydrangeas.
Photo by @grupovegaflor

 

And, just to be ‘closer’ to the flower growers — especially the smallscale growers — the association, also, has branches in Rionegro (Antioquia Department) and Pereira (Risaralda Department). These subsidiary offices help bring together the smaller flower growers in their respective regions.

Enhancing Colombia’s Flower Industry

Asocolflores has implemented a range of initiatives to strengthen the Colombian flower industry and ensure its global competitiveness. Such include:

Market Access and Promotion.

The association actively promotes Colombian flowers in international markets by participating in trade shows, exhibitions, and flower business organizations worldwide. The guild has, accordingly, been instrumental in opening new markets, including in the U.S., and Asia for Colombian flowers.

 

​Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @floriusflowers

 

Research and Innovation

The association builds and nurtures collaborations between different organizations, as well as between growers, researchers, and universities, to improve flower cultivation techniques, enhance flower quality, and address industry challenges. This ensures Colombian flowers remain at the forefront of global trends.

Social Responsibility and Worker Welfare

Asocolflores, also, prioritizes the well-being of workers and their families. The association has implemented various social responsibility programs and supports vulnerable communities. It, for instance, joined the Society of American Florists (SAF) for the Colombian chapter of the Petal It Forward campaign, which gives away flowers to spark positive emotions. This demonstrated its enthusiasm for sharing the emotional benefits of flowers with Colombians.

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @flowersofcolombia

 

Sustainability and Floriculture Practices.

Sustainability is essential in the floriculture industry. Asocolflores is, as a result, a leader in sustainable floriculture, promoting sustainable practices for the well-being of all. The association champions a variety of ideas that support the sustainability cause by encouraging growers to adopt environmentally and socially responsible practices.

The Numbers: Colombia’s Floriculture Industry’s Brief Outlook

In a country known for its quality and sustainably produced flowers, the flower industry in Colombia is thriving, and that’s undeniable. The country produces at least 1,400 flower varieties, grown on at least 17,000 acres of land. It exports these flowers to some 100 countries worldwide, and its flower market size is estimated at about USD$2 billion. 

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @flowersofcolombia

 

The country has, for the most part, been the leading producer and exporter of carnations globally. It is, in fact, recognized for the diversity and quality of its carnations. The flower industry in this South American nation also provides jobs for more than 200,000 people in the country. 

Also notably, Colombia is the second largest exporter of cut flowers globally (after the Netherlands) and exports 80% of its flower production to the U.S., mainly through Miami. 

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @colombialandofflowers

 

Its other cut flower destinations include Canada, the U.K., Spain, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Korea, and Russia. Aside from carnations, roses, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, lilies, and alstroemerias are some of its other leading flower offerings. Canada is the second main destination for Colombian cut flowers, and in 2022, USD$66 million worth of Colombian flowers were exported to the country, a growth of 13% compared to 2021.

Implementing Sustainability and Other Programs at the Core of Colombia’s Flower Success

According to Augusto, Asocolflores largely directs its efforts toward sustainability, social responsibility, and shared value in the Colombian flower industry, working with numerous partners and institutions to ensure social and environmental standards are not just observed but also heeded to the very end.

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @fillcoflowers

 

The association, for starters, implements Florverde Sustainable Flowers (FSF), the Colombian certification for the floriculture sector. This is the second oldest and among the best floriculture certifications in the world. It promotes responsible and sustainable practices in the floral industry, focusing on promoting environmentally and socially responsible flower production and trade.

It also aims to ensure the well-being of flower workers, protect the environment, and support local communities. Asocolflores achieves all these objectives by ensuring that flowers certified under the scheme have been responsibly produced.

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @floresauroracolombia

 

FSF, basically, enables flower growers to quantify and monitor their environmental, social, and economic performance across key metrics like carbon footprint, water usage, pesticide consumption, worker truancy, and labor turnover. This data-driven approach has been instrumental in guiding continuous improvement efforts and ensuring transparent, ethical relationships across the flower supply chain.

Ceniflores, the Center for Innovation in Colombian Floriculture, is also another initiative promoted and implemented through Asocolflores. This program encourages the development of better production practices and seeks solutions to phytosanitary problems. Ceniflores generally plays a crucial role in advancing sustainable practices, addressing challenges in the flower industry, and promoting the development of Colombian floriculture.

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @flowersofcolombia

 

This is a kind of ‘triangle of innovation’ that brings together government, academia, and industry to tackle production and supply chain challenges, through a collaborative approach that has positioned the flower sector as a leader in agricultural research and development. It enables the development of pioneering solutions to navigate the complexities of the flower industry. Ceniflores sometimes works closely with the Colombian Agricultural Research Corporation (Agrosavia) and the Colombian Agricultural Institute – Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario (ICA).

Asocolflores has, also, made the empowerment of women and workers a central pillar of its social responsibility agenda. Of the over 200,000 formal jobs that the flower industry provides in Colombia, 60% are held by women, many of whom are the sole breadwinners for their families. Asocolflores’ member companies participate in providing these workers with access to skills training, housing support, recreational activities, and employment assistance programs.

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Proflora is one of the events through which Asocolflores promotes Colombian flowers.
Photo by @proflora.co

 

Also, Asocolflores organizes Proflora. This is one of the most important fresh-cut flower expos in the world and takes place every two years in Bogota. The expo gathers leading producers, exporters, buyers, sellers, suppliers, and service providers from the flower industry, presenting them with an opportunity to network and identify new leads for flower products. Proflora also helps promote Colombian flowers.

Partnering With Different Other Institutions

Recognizing the power of cooperation, Asocolflores has, similarly, established strategic partnerships, amplifying the reach and influence of the Colombian flower industry on the global stage. The organization holds seats on the boards of key industry bodies like SAF, the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA), and the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA). 

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @flowersofcolombia

 

Elsewhere, it is also a member of key international floriculture institutions, including Union Fleurs, Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI), and the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH/IAHP).

Domestically, Asocolflores has forged strategic alliances with the Colombian Business Council for Sustainable Development (Cecodes), the National Business Council (CGN), and the Farmers’ Society of Colombia (SAC). Such partnerships enable the association to amplify its voice in advocating for the interests of the flower industry, while also aligning its efforts with broader priorities around sustainability.

 

Asocolflores Is Powering Colombia’s Floriculture Success
Photo by @floresauroracolombia

 

Be that as it may, through its multifaceted efforts, Asocolflores has not only cemented Colombia’s status as a leader in the floriculture industry but also has elevated the country’s reputation as a champion of ethical, environmentally-conscious flower business practices. Looking ahead, the association remains keen on driving the continued growth and success of the Colombian flower industry.

 

Feature image by @grupovegaflor, header image by @fillcoflowers.

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