Valentine's blues for flower growers

By: By GONZALO SOLANO, Associated Press Writer
By: By GONZALO SOLANO, Associated Press Writer

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) - The smell of roses may be fainter in the United States this Valentine's Day.

Flower shipments from Ecuador to the U.S. are down 23 percent so far this year in what is normally peak season, said Gonzalo Luzuriaga, president of Expoflores, the country's main growers' association.

In one indication of American frugality impacting Valentine's Day sales, 1-800-Flowers.com reported last month that it expects revenues to decline as much as 10 percent this year. Demand also has plummeted in Russia, which has been hit even harder by the global economic downturn, according to the president of Ecuador's central bank, Carlos Vallejo.

Exports from Colombia of airfreighted roses, carnations and other flowers also may be down, but officials there say it's too early to say for sure.

"There's great uncertainty at the moment," said Augusto Solano, president of Asocolflores, Colombia's principal flower growers' group. He said Colombia's flower exports fell by about 1.3 percent in 2008 and that zero growth is the best they expect this year.

Solano said 60 percent of the roses sold in the United States for Valentine's Day come from Colombia as well as 92 percent of the carnations and 93 percent of the chrysanthemums.

Colombia produces about 77 percent of U.S. cut flower imports, Ecuador 17 percent.

"The data are worrisome," said Luzuriaga, whose association represents most Ecuadorean flower producers. "The rest of 2009 is going to be very complicated."

While demand from Europe was up 17 percent so far this year, he said, overall exports are down 15 percent. Ecuador sold $523 million in flowers from January to November 2008, but its central bank predicts sales will drop by $150 million this year.

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Associated Press writers Vivian Sequera in Bogota and Michael Warren in Mexico City contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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