The complex and extraordinary mechanism that makes it possible to cut flowers in one country and sell them fresh in another 30 days later - El Mostrador

2022-07-07 22:44:22 By : Mr. cloudia smith

If you are already subscribed, log in here:Thursday, July 7, 2022 Updated at 18:36by BBC News World July 7, 2022Credit: JEROEN VAN LOONWorkers in thick coats move boxes of flowers from a cold room to a refrigerated container.Once packed, these flowers will travel hundreds of kilometers by road, in a special "controlled atmosphere" container, from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to the coast.Upon arrival at the African country's largest seaport, Mombasa, the container is loaded onto a ship for a journey to Europe of around 30 days.Despite their long journey, they will still be sold to European buyers with a shelf life of around a week.How is this possible?"The flowers will be kept at a temperature of 0.5 degrees Celsius throughout the journey," says Elizabeth Kimani, quality and standards manager at Sian Flowers.In addition to controlling the temperature, the container's atmosphere system reduces the oxygen level from 20 to 4%, while increasing the carbon dioxide level from 0.4 to 4%.This technology is part of the elaborate process of preserving flowers for as long as possible.“Through this [system] all activity in the flowers is stopped and as a result they go into dormancy,” says Kimani, explaining that the flowers are put to sleep.A sophisticated tracking system allows shipping personnel to monitor temperature, oxygen and CO2 levels throughout the voyage.But flowers destined for such a long journey need special attention to prepare them as soon as they are picked."We pick them early in the morning when it's still cool and they will be the first to go into the cold room," explains Linda Murungi of Sian Flowers.Freshly cut roses, for example, are dipped in a chemical mixture to protect them from botrytis fungus.After that, the stems are put in buckets to soak up a hydration solution so they can survive the 30 days without water.They are also put in a solution that slows down the growth hormone, ethylene, which causes the flowers to age.Once that process is complete, the flowers are packed in cardboard boxes with holes at the top and bottom, which allow air to circulate from the container system.Kenya has become one of the world's largest flower exporters thanks to its equatorial location, high altitudes and relatively cheap labor.It competes for dominance in the market with Colombia and Ecuador.For years, the two Latin American countries have been exporting about 10% of their flowers by sea freight to North America and Europe.Since these flowers are in the sea for a much shorter period of time, companies that export from Latin America do not use controlled atmospheres or post-harvest treatments.Kenyan exporters, however, must be very careful.There is no direct shipping route to Europe, instead containers are transferred in the Middle East from smaller vessels to much larger ones.“All processes related to shipping require extreme precision – there is no room for shortcuts,” says Jeroen van der Hulst, CEO of consultancy FlowerWatch."One mistake and your flowers could end up in Europe as compost," he adds.The complex journey of Kenyan flowers carries a higher risk of delay, as containers occasionally miss their transfer window.The port of Mombasa has also been known for delays and bureaucracy.Another challenge is that it also lacks the so-called "green line" for perishables: flowers have to queue up with all the other containers.Due to these challenges, Kenyan flower growers have, in the past, been wary of shipping and preferred to transport their flowers by air, but changed during the pandemic.According to Harm-Jan Mostert, business manager for Africa at Royal FloraHolland, the Dutch company behind the world's largest flower plant, farmers saw the price of airfreight skyrocket from around $1.80 per kilo in January. from 2020 to around US$2.80 per kilo in June 2022.The transportation situation became so difficult that some growers even resorted to destroying parts of their harvest."This year alone, more than 300 containers with 10 tons of flowers each have been exported from Kenya by sea," says Van der Hulst."That's a substantial savings of 30 fully loaded planes," he adds.As well as being cheaper, shipping can reduce carbon emissions by 84% and 95% respectively, according to a study funded by the UK government in 2021.Clearly, though, if you're worried about the carbon footprint of cut flowers, you're probably better off buying a seasonal bouquet grown close to home.Walking through his greenhouse in Naivasha, Robin Letcher of Royal De Ruiter East Africa explains to the BBC that rose growers are also trying to develop new varieties."This variety, for example, has firmer petals that are less sensitive to botrytis [fungus], which is good for shipping," he says, pointing to some red roses.In the future, this could potentially reduce the need for chemicals during post-harvest treatments, although it could take seven to 10 years to develop successfully, so "it's a long-term thing," he adds.Many flower growers are nervous about switching to shipping."A stupid mistake, a port strike or bad weather can really cause problems for shipping," explains Letcher.Last year, for example, a container accidentally went to Singapore."[It] finally arrived in the Netherlands after 53 days. So all the flowers had to be destroyed, which was a disaster for the growers," he says.Growers must also deal with the perception in the industry that flowers shipped by sea have a shorter shelf life, particularly at the world's largest flower auction in the Netherlands.Customers don't notice much of a difference, according to Kimani, who says ocean freight flowers are indistinguishable from air freight flowers, adding that some of his roses even travel better by sea than by air."Although air transportation only takes about 12 hours, sometimes there are high temperatures during the journey...which obviously has a negative influence on the flowers," he explains."However, with shipping, our flowers are continually dormant," he adds.The logistics of moving these flowers is not an easy decision, as prices are constantly changing.But in the longer term, Moster forecasts that shipping will account for at least 20% of Kenya's flower exports, a sector worth $934 million a year."Air freight prices will probably never fall back to the level before the covid-19 crisis, so also from a cost perspective, sea freight is still interesting," says Moster.The humorist Stefan Kramer surprised the networks by publishing a video in which he imitates President Gabriel Boric and the Minister of ...Submitted by Hernán Saldaña |July 6, 2022Submitted by Erwin Navarrete |July 6, 2022