Trends in domestic production and imports.

According to the report, “Floriculture and Nursery Crops Situation and Outlook Yearbook,” produced in June 2005 by Andy Jerardo at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service, American consumption of floriculture crops reached $6 billion (wholesale) in 2004, a  4-percent increase from 2002, primarily due to increased sales of bedding and garden plants.* The report also indicates that per-household consumption of cut flowers increased from $9.18 in 2003 to $10 in 2004 (8.9 percent).
In addition, the quantity of U.S. cut flower imports rose 7 percent in 2004 while the value of those imports rose 16 percent, to a record 64 percent of the U.S. cut flower supply. The value increases were due, in part, to higher prices, some of which was the result of the dollar’s depreciated exchange rate. Only about 36 percent of the U.S. cut flower supply, in value terms, was grown domestically in 2004.
Colombia is, by far, the largest source of U.S. cut flower imports, and Ecuador is the second-largest source. In value, imports from those two countries increased 21 percent and 27 percent, respectively, in 2004. Meanwhile, the value of cut flowers imported from the European Union fell 3 percent.
Shipments of cut roses from Colombia and Ecuador jumped significantly for the second year in a row. These two countries are also exporting more of other cut flowers to the United States, including chrysanthemums and carnations. These imports are largely responsible for the decline in domestic cut flower production.
In 2000, America’s top cut flower crops (imports and domestics combined) were roses, lilies, Gladioli, tulips and Irises, in that order. While most of the top crops remained the same in 2004, some of their numbers changed dramatically, and there was a newcomer to the top crops list: Gerberas.
These changes reflect a continuing shift from traditional crops to specialty products, which is expected to continue. Both American growers and off-shore suppliers are finding new product niches beyond those traditionally dominated by growers in Colombia and Ecuador.
For example, the number of lilies grown domestically increased 27.3 percent over the last four years. And Gerberas showed an impressive increase of 86.3 percent from 2000 to 2004. Tulips also increased nicely during the same period—27.9 percent. While the majority of these crops are grown in California, Washington now boasts 35.8 percent of American tulip production.

* “Floriculture crops” are defined as cut flowers and foliages; potted flowering and foliage plants; and nonwoody ornamental plants, including bedding and garden plants. When nursery and ornamental crops are included—woody-stemmed trees and shrubs, grasses, Christmas trees, etc.—wholesale sales for the floriculture industry totaled $15.7 billion in 2004.
According to Peggy Dillon, communications/PR manager for the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC), off-shore producers, including the South American “powerhouses,” aren’t readily able to replicate these specialty crops. “Gerberas are difficult to produce and require specialized care during the growing cycle,” she explains.
In addition, bulb products are costly to ship from the Netherlands, so America’s bulb flower growers, led by Dutch flower growers with the expertise associated with their native region, can offer comparable products without costly freight.
Meanwhile, flowers dominated by imports show continuing downward production. Domestic rose production was down 40.8 percent from 2000 to 2004, standard carnation production fell a staggering 77.0 percent, Alstroemeria production was down 44.5 percent, and Gladiolus numbers were off 13.1 percent. However, Ms. Dillon says that California’s rose growers are finding niches with high-end and novelty varieties with new traits, such as fragrance, bold colors, etc., to remain competitive.
Florida is the United States’ second-most important cut flower and foliage growing state. The majority of Gladioli and many types of foliages are grown there. Unfortunately, in mid-2004, many of the state’s growers suffered losses due to a pair of devastating hurricanes. While Florida’s production numbers are down somewhat, the industry is expected to bounce back within the next year or two.

Without a doubt, Colombia remains the dominant flower producer impacting U.S. cut flower supplies. Not surprisingly, roses, carnations, spray chrysanthemums and Alstroemerias are among its top crops exported to the United States, and in some cases, the numbers have increased rather dramatically. In the carnation, Alstroemeria and spray chrysanthemum categories, Colombia has established almost complete dominance, providing as much as 95 percent of crop imports.
Among its remaining crops, Colombia records very few decreases from 2000 to 2004, but there were some including Freesias and marguerite daisies. Exports of daisies to the United States have essentially ceased.
Although Colombian growers have begun growing some specialty crops to supply their increasing ready-made bouquet operations as well as exotic crops such as Heliconias and gingers, they likely will continue to focus on the product categories they already dominate.

Another impressive flower producing country, Ecuador makes a close second to Colombia, but, except for roses, growers wisely carved out niches in products that aren’t dominated by its prolific neighbor.
For 2004, Ecuador’s top crops on the U.S. market were roses, Delphiniums, asters, Gypsophila and mixed bouquets. But growers here also handle some specialty crops quite nicely, and it’s realistic to assume that, in these niche areas, Ecuador could soon become a powerhouse on par with Colombia, poised to dominate each of the categories in which its growers excel. Gypsophila is a case in point. In 2000, Ecuador exported 8.3 million bunches of baby’s breath to the United States; by 2004, that number had increased 153 percent, to 20.9 million bunches.

It’s common knowledge that the Netherlands is among the world’s largest and most prolific cut flower producers. But because of added freight expenses, only a limited selection of this country’s vast wealth of cut flowers is available in the United States.
Not surprisingly, tulips lead Holland’s U.S. supplies and accounted, in 2004, for almost 95 percent of tulip imports. While this country’s exquisite roses have declined in recent years, they hold the second position among Netherlands supplies to the United States.
Other cut flowers, especially lilies, Gerberas and Freesias, which round out Holland’s top five in that order, hold much promise, as do Cymbidium orchids. (Dutch blooms accounted for nearly 44 percent of Cymbidium imports in 2004.)
Rokus Hassefras, area manager for the Flower Council of Holland, explains that, in these four crops, Holland’s new, always-inventive varieties and colors continue to fuel demand, and these crops, especially Gerberas and Cymbidiums, should be more prevalent over the next few years. Watch also for snapdragons, which are increasingly in demand.

Recently, Canadian cut flower growers have begun tapping into the American market. Supplies, at this point, are relatively small, but given these growers’ proximity to America, they could soon increase.
In 2004, we imported a total of just 122,000 stems/bunches from Canada. But through early September 2005, we have imported a total of 4.8 million stems/bunches. Canada’s top supplies to the United States are roses, Gerberas and tulips. In the next few years, watch for bulb crops and other enticing materials from this country.

In 2000, Mexico’s top crops shipped to U.S. buyers were roses, standard carnations, Gladioli, Chamaedorea (palm) and leatherleaf. For 2004, Mexico’s shipments of roses and carnations diminished significantly (65.9 percent and 64.5 percent respectively) while supplies of leatherleaf, Gladioli and Delphiniums increased.
Mexico is coming to dominate certain U.S. imports. For example, in 2000, Mexico supplied just 23 percent of our daisy imports, but by the end of 2004, the country commanded some 97 percent. Mexico’s supplies of Gladioli also rose during those four years. Mexican growers are realizing the value of niche crops and should continue to make a strong showing in categories such as Delphiniums, lilies and callas.

Costa Rica
In just four short years, this coastal country has increased its cut flower shipments from 93.2 million stems/bunches to 249.3 million—a 167-percent increase. Lilies, callas and Irises are important Costa Rican exports. This country will likely continue to develop its bulb flower crops and foliages.

Since the late 1990s, Chile’s growers have worked to establish themselves as viable producers for the American market. However, given the distances product has to travel to reach our ports, competing with closer suppliers was nearly impossible except in bulb products, which Chile grows during the off season. Growers here continue to make small strides, especially with lilies and tulips.
In addition, in recent years, Chile has produced modest quantities of other cut flowers, including mixed bouquets, Delphiniums, Gerberas, liatrises, lisianthuses and more. And this trend is expected to continue, with growers carving out specialized niches.

Australia and New Zealand
While both of these countries produce some amazing cut flowers, extreme distances to the U.S. market limit their viability here. However, growers in these regions sell a wealth of intriguing indigenous products in the United States, most of which, such as various foliages, waxflowers and other novelties, are not among those tracked by the USDA.
In addition, growers in both nations have recently begun supplying small amounts of orchids, Delphiniums, Lisianthus, lilies and other traditional crops, and growers are hoping to increase these quantities as demand warrants.

Asia and Africa
The selection of growers in these regions has expanded tremendously, as have the crops they’re supplying. From Vietnam and Singapore to Kenya and Zimbabwe, the selection of crops from these continents have expanded tremendously, including Alstroemerias, asters, callas, Delphiniums, Freesias, Lisianthus and much more.
However, the most abundant crop from this region is orchids, most of which is supplied by Thailand. In fact, its 1.5 million Cymbidium blooms and 122.8 million other orchids account for 26.3 percent and 92.3 percent of orchid imports respectively.
And these numbers are significant compared to those of 2000. Thailand produced almost no Cymbidiums for sale to the United States and only 34 million other orchids. In this category, Thailand’s supplies have increased an impressive 72 percent!

Reprinted with permission from Florists’ Review, November 2005.