Development: Say it with flowers

Cut flower exports get a lot of development buzz. I'll make this into a bleg for anybody who can contribute some systematic knowledge on this. Of course, I first did my own exhaustive research on this, in the form of a 10-minute chance conversation with a flower importer for a major chic retailer in New York. The flowers shown from South Africa and Ecuador surprised me. I didn't know Ecuador had cut into the famous Colombia success story in providing America's roses, and I didn't even know South Africa WAS a flower exporter, especially to the US. She told me that many flowers have a longer shelf life than I thought, like 12 days, giving time to fly them long distances.

The South African flowers went to Amsterdam (the center of the global market) to Miami (the entry point for all flowers to the US, possibly chosen by customs to catch drugs mixed with the flowers) and then to New York. Africa's most famous success story is Kenyan cut flowers to Europe, currently being somewhat displaced by Ethiopians.  According to a co-authored paper that I will discuss in a future blog, Uganda was a competitor in this market until increased fuel prices after 2003 drove their firms out of business; Ethiopia's flower exports took off at the same time because of some combination of better flowers, government subsidies, and foreign aid subsidies (the latter obviously merits more investigation on its own). Other small African exporters have been Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Tanzania.

My own informant had visited Cote d'Ivoire as a possible source for the US market, but the international flights were to Paris, and Abidjan to Paris to Amsterdam to Miami to New York was a few airports too many.

Flower exports could be beautiful in theory: good horticultural land + cheap labor + air transport = earnings for poor people. But may be not if they have to go through 5 airports.

Anybody like to respond to this bleg with some more flower information?