Over the past few days, Boston has been slammed by multiple snow storms. This causes challenges for my pending flight to San Jose, but another deadline looms: some roses might not be able to make it to Boston on time for Valentine's Day. Only someone deeply concerned with Supply Chain and Logistics worries about delivery time on Valentine’s Day. But perhaps we all should: it could very easily shape whether you get a kiss or the cold shoulder for Valentine’s Day tomorrow.
According to IPSOS floral tracking study, cut, fresh flowers take center stage for three holidays: Christmas, Mother's Day and Valentine's Day[i]. The US imported 976 million cut flower stems in advance of Valentine’s Day last year, between January 1 and February 14.[ii] You might guess these flowers are from the Netherlands. However, the Netherlands supplied only 2% of all imported volume. Seventy-one percent of Valentine's Day flowers came from Colombia alone and 19% from Ecuador.
The key words of fresh cut flower logistics are “speed” and “refrigeration.” Farmers in Latin America cut flowers at dawn and immediately pack them in temperature-controlled coolers, and these coolers are sent to the airport right away. Cargo airplanes then fly them directly to the US. Ninety percent of imported flowers came through Miami international airport last year. After pest inspection (normally within 24 hours of arrival), these flowers are transferred onto temperature-controlled trucks to flower distributors, which store them in refrigerated warehouses. According to UPS, the journey from the flower farm to the importer takes only 24 to 48 hours.[iii] An industry term associated with perishable goods logistics is “cold-chain”.
Boston is 2,600 miles away from Bogota by plane. The beautiful roses some of us will receive or give this Valentine’s Day probably just left farm early Monday morning. I don’t know about you, but as a logistics professional, I am always amazed by, and at the same time proud of, the efficiency and sophistication of modern logistics. And hopefully, this blog will add a bit color to your bouquet, and we’ll all cherish this snowy holiday a little more than usual.