Infamous Colombia: Country of Roses

Infamous Colombia is a series of posts intended to talk about high profile issues and bring the country’s positive contributions to the world into the discussion.

In the 1970’s, a university student had a business plan to grow roses in the savanna of Bogotá, Colombia. The plan was written for a school project, but he made that project into a reality shortly after graduating and started a small company which is still operating and prosperous to this day.

The rose exporting business brings around 1.5 billion per year to Colombia, putting it second in the world for the largest cut flower exporter, the top place belonging to the Netherlands.

In 1991, George H.W. Bush signed the Andean Trade Preference Act between the US, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador to lower duties on agricultural imports such as roses. US rose growers have almost been completely wiped out by this deal as millions of roses land in Miami every single day in the weeks leading up to Valentines Day. The rose exporting business brings around 1.5 billion per year to Colombia, putting it second in the world for the largest cut flower exporter, the top place belonging to the Netherlands.

The Bogotá savanna is rose country with its rich soil, 12 hours of sunlight every day all year round and a consistent temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. You can buy a dozen from the back of a truck for around $2USD in almost any color on the roads close to the greenhouses.

The deal signed by President Bush was done to assist Colombia and other Latin countries in the war on drugs. The coca plant was the target of the deal which would make it easier for farm workers to find legitimate work and hopefully eliminate or largely reduce the coca fields for cocaine production. The US has been an ally for many years, investing billions in trying to eradicate the problem to no avail as production numbers of the coca plant are at an all-time high.

Some farms are using natural plants like mint and tobacco to ward off pests.

Although the rose industry brings in a large amount of money, the effects of such mass commercial farming are a concern for many Colombian citizens and environmentalists alike. The transportation and water consumption from these farms is extremely high and carcinogenic pesticide use is pretty common. But research suggests that the use of harmful chemicals is on the decline in this sector due to the consumer – advertising organic or pesticide-free on a product ensures more sales, good publicity and just overall better practices for everyone. Some farms are using natural plants like mint and tobacco to ward off pests. The mint is planted at each end of the rose beds and the tobacco is slowly burned. These aromatic plants are known to ward of aphids and other similar bugs that threaten young rose blooms.

Interestingly enough, Colombians do not celebrate Valentines Day, but rather Love and Friendship day which is on the 3rd Saturday of September. Love and Friendship Day was created in the 60’s to boost the economy, add a holiday to the month of September and to include not just lovers, but friends and family. Valentine’s Day can be a little bit of an exclusive holiday for lovers only, so Love and Friendship day is quite refreshing even if it’s just another commercial holiday.

Jenny Sine
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Jenny Sine

Canadian living in Bogotá, Colombia giving private tours to share the natural beauty of South America, studying philosophy and growing food 3000 meters above sea level.

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(1) Comment

  1. Alejandro

    Interesting facts on roses growing conditions, they produce a lot of them, I’ll get some for my wife when I meet her she loves them.

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