In figures recently published, the first three months of 2007 have been exceptionally profitable for Colombia, showing an increase in Colombias G.D.P by 8.09%, the highest growth the country has experienced in 29 years.
Further to this, the country has also enjoyed the direct investment of USD 3.72 billion value so far this year. An increase of 3 times that which was invested last year.
The countrys geographic location to the United states and to Europe, the increase in domestic security, low inflation rates and a strong export industry are cited as the factors which have contributed to the recent steady economic improvement which according to these early figures, looks set to continue for now at least.
The most profitable exports Colombia offers include petrol, gold, and bannanas, but two of it’s biggest products, community coffee and fresh cut flowers continue to lead the economy in economic return.
Thanks to the efficiency and speed of the Internet as a key tool of order and delivery in the florticulture industry, global demand for floral produce has increased dramatically since the mid 1990’s.
As well as traditional occasions for giving flowers such as wedding, funerals and birthdays, the conveneince of being able to order and send flowers quickly has made them a poular gift choice of convenience, for last minute or ‘forgotten’ occasions. As well, an increasing number of consumers are purchasing flowers for personal use, to decorate homes and office foyers all over the world.
The Flower Council of Holland reports that consumption of fresh cut flowers in the United States is now worth USD $8880 million per year, spent by an average of 28% of American households. But relative to the market in Europe, of which an average of 60% of households spend money on flowers, the profit potential in this industry is enormous.
While commercial production of flowers only began in Colombia in the 1960’s, relatively late compared to an already flourishing industry in Western Europe, Colombia now owns the second largest export market for its fresh cut flowers, second only the The Netherlands.
The geographic location of the country and its temperate climate, providing perfect growing conditions for a variety of popular stems gives Colombia a strong advantage for success in the florticulture business, with beautiful fresh flowers in close range for fresh deliveries to the flower markets in Europe and the USA.
Today, 3 out of 4 flowers sold in the United States are now produced in Colombia, there are close to 1 million people making their income from the industry, with more than 170,000 direct and in-direct jobs produced by the market demand.
Asocolflores, the independent association that represents the growers in Colombia, cites the flower industry as one of the most important for Colombias economic future. As well as the increasing profits from consumer demand, florticulture is an industry that encourages employment opportunities for women, who account for more than 65% of the industrys workforce.
The organisation provides support for these workers and their families, including housing finance assistance, as well as recreation, education and childcare support programs, contributing to the the well being of members of the industry, and in turn, the overall well being of the greater community.
In the caffe industry, Colombia is one of fifty countries that supplies the worlds demand for coffee. The Jesuit missionaries brought coffee plants with them as early as the 1800’s where they found ideal conditions for their crops to thrive. Coffee has been growing in Colombia ever since.
The high altitude of the main coffee regions such as Bogota and Bucaramanga provide rich, volcanic soil, a steady mild temperature and high rainfall, allowing the industry today to produce coffee beans all year round, with the main harvests being in October and April or May. Today, Colombia is home to more then 500,000 independent growers.
During the 1990’s tough competition was presented from rival coffee exporters in Asia and Africa, to meet a growing demand from consumers around the world. The coffee produced in these countries flooded the market, bringing prices to record lows that looked set to destroy what was once one of Colombias most lucrative export industrys.
Since then, Colombias coffee industry has struggled to retain its position as one of the top coffee exporters of the world, but its reputation for quality beans with a rich aroma and strong flavour has helped seal a deal that looks set to cement the future of the industry for the next few years at least.
As the Latin Business Chronical reported in May this year, The Colombian Coffee Federation signed a deal with Coca-Cola for the distribution of Colombia’s coffee to the consumer giant’s portfolio of 425,000 restaurant clients in the United States.
The deal is set to tip the balance of market growth back into Colombias favour, with an expected increase in export growth of 4% in total value, compared to the dissapointing 0.22% result in 2006.
Like the Asocolflores association supporting the cut flower industry in Colombia, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia provides many social service benefits to members of the coffee industry and their families.
The organisations stated mission is ‘to help Colombian coffee growers develop agronomic expertise, improved living conditions and to promote Colombian coffee to the world,’ and it does so by providing assistance in the form of quality assurance standards and testing, education, healthcare and improved infastructure to coffee growing communities, particularly in the more remote communities of the country.
Colombia’s thriving export activities, and indeed the stability of the rest of the economy is good news for not just the world’s consumers, but also for the people of Colombia. They are beginning to experience the trust of the global community in their countrys future, bringing with it better opportunity for employment and the improvement of social, political and environmental challenges the country has struggled with for many years
Gaizka Pujana is the co-owner of Barcelona Homes, S.L. which is a company specialized in providing short term tenancy solutions in Seville and Barcelona through its web pages wholesale fresh cut flowers
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