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Flowers from South America boost volumes

By Hpanchal on March 1, 2012

Weakened economies around the world haven’t impaired freight carriers’ Valentine’s Day flower volumes, according to several reports. Numerous airlines have actually experienced a boom in operations and have had to deploy additional aircraft.

IAG Cargo, for instance, transported more than 700 tonnes of Valentine’s flowers on behalf of Iberia Cargo and British Airways World Cargo. Although BA is simply on par to repeat its 2011 Valentine’s performance, Iberia has already seen a 6.7 percent, year-over-year, surge in flora volumes this year.

Most of the flowers transported on Iberia’s flights were grown in Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala and sold to florists in Spain, the Netherlands and the UK, according to a press release. Colombia is by far the top flower exporter, however, with Central American destinations ranking among the main exporters of bouquet foliage. Not surprisingly, roses remain the most-transported flower, followed by carnations.

On the import side, Japan has emerged as a key consumer of Valentine’s flowers. Carmen Taylor, managing director of sales for American Airlines Cargo’s Latin American sector, said AA’s Bogota-Narita trade lane, which was launched in 2011, has been inundated with flower traffic this year.

“[Despite the recession], we’ve actually seen an increase of luxurious products on flights,” Taylor said. “I guess flowers are something that is still key in people’s lives.”

Flowers also have unique cold-chain requirements, which is one of the reasons why AA Cargo is launching a perishables facility at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in the second quarter of 2012. Taylor said the carrier established a similar facility at Miami International Airport in October 2006. And although both facilities are located in the U.S, Taylor said America is not AA Cargo’s top concern. “Most of our focus is on flowers beyond our U.S. gateways,” she said.

Unfortunately, Taylor added, the European market has been slightly disappointing in terms of flower demand. Spain has been especially weak. “Spain is going through a recession like a few other countries in Europe, so we’ve seen less flowers going to Spain,” she said. Taylor admits that AA Cargo has also witnessed lower demand among some nations, particularly European ones, for foreign-grown flowers.

Lufthansa Cargo has reported strong Valentine’s Day flower volumes on its routes from South America and Africa to Frankfurt. In fact, the German freight carrier said flew 1,100 tonnes of flowers to its Frankfurt Airport hub in preparation for Valentine’s Day 2012. This volume, which is equivalent to 13 full MD-11 freighters, is consistent with 2011 levels, Lufthansa Cargo’s Michael Göntgens said.

Valentine’s Day 2010 was a different story, he said. Weakened markets resulting from the global recession led to 30-percent to 40-percent lower flower volumes in 2010 than in 2011. 2010 also presented challenges to FedEx, a spokeswoman for the logistics provider said. Since Valentine’s Day 2010 fell on a Sunday, FedEx partnered with ProFlowers to coordinate overnight deliveries.

Even though Valentine’s Day 2012 occured on a Tuesday, the FedEx spokeswoman said this year has been just as taxing for FedEx. “The weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day continue to remain some of the busiest of the year for FedEx,” she said. “The number of Valentine’s Day deliveries from e-commerce florists and retailers continues to grow each year. And due to the perishable nature of flowers, airfreight is often the preferred mode for flower transportation.”

Increasing demand for flower transportation is also why Tampa Cargo tasked the now-insolvent World Airways with providing charter flights in late January and early February. According to a press release, World Airways flew hundreds of tonnes of flowers from Latin America to North America on Boeing 747-400 freighters on behalf of Tampa Cargo to meet the Valentine’s Day rush.

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