Colombia, the world's second-largest producer of flowers after The Netherlands, is cranking up its offerings, cutting and packaging some 500 million stems to meet the global market's demand on Valentine's Day, industry representatives said.
Sales on what for some is the "day of love" and for others "friendship day" accounted for 12 percent of Colombia's flower exports in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available, when the world bought $1.35 billion worth of Colombian flowers.
Some 75 percent of foreign sales go to the United States, where Valentine's Day is a big business, Augusto Solana, CEO of the Colombian Association of Flower Exporters, said in an interview with Efe.
The season requires Colombian flower growers to make "a big logistics effort since production and shipments must be tripled in a short period of time," Solana said.
This year and next will be crucial for florists since the drop in the value of the Colombian peso against the U.S. dollar makes the South American country's exports more competitive.
Colombia is the source of 80 percent of the flowers imported by the United States and 60 percent of the carnations bought by Japan.
Russia, Britain, Canada and countries in Western Europe also buy flowers from Colombian exporters, who are seeking new markets, such as South Korea, to expand sales.
For florists' top day of the year, El Redil, a company based near Bogota, is working hard since Valentine's Day accounts for 10 percent of its production, Fernando Arenas, technical manager and a partner in the firm, told Efe.
Valentine's Day represents 18 percent of El Redil's sales.
"If we do things right and everything goes well, we make it up for the whole year," Arenas said. "The rest of the year we do well but just enough to break even."
The key to Colombia's success is the country's ability "to produce over the 52 weeks of the year flowers of even quality," which along with 40 years of experience and a reputation for reliability allows Colombian flowers to have a place in markets around the world.
"We produce good quality flowers with competitive prices the whole year and we have some clients who have bought from us for many years," Arenas said.