From the Smithsonian magazine:
A 1967 term paper by a graduate student in horticulture at Colorado State University titled “Bogotá, Colombia as a Cut-Flower Exporter for World Markets” started the boom in this Latin American country. The paper suggested that the savanna near Colombia’s capital was an ideal place to grow flowers to sell in the United States.
The savanna is a high plain fanning out from the Andean foothills, about 8,700 feet above sea level and 320 miles north of the Equator, and close to both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Those circumstances create a pleasant climate with little temperature variation and consistent light, about 12 hours per day year-round. A former lakebed, the savanna also has dense, clay-rich soil and networks of wetlands, tributaries and waterfalls left after the lake receded 100,000 years ago. And Bogotá is just a three-hour flight from Miami—closer to East Coast customers than California, the center of the U.S. flower industry.
Producing a single rose bloom requires as much as three gallons of water.
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Today, the country is the world’s second-largest exporter of cut flowers, after the Netherlands, shipping more than $1 billion in blooms. Colombia now commands about 70 percent of the U.S. market; if you buy a bouquet in a supermarket, big-box store or airport kiosk, it probably came from the Bogotá savanna.
The country is the world’s second-largest exporter of cut flowers, after the Netherlands.
The global marketplace will always demand cheaper flowers, and Colombian farms must compete with growers in other nations, including neighboring Ecuador and rising flower power Kenya.
The Secrets Behind Your Flowers. Smithsonian magazine, February 2011.