Posts Tagged “Valentine’s Day 2013”

Valentine’s Day: Quito Airport

Blogger: David Dahlson

Another Valentine’s season is in the books, and today lovers, wives, spouses, partners, secret admirers and overtly affectionate people everywhere will express their feelings with flowers. An overwhelming majority will give roses, and many of these roses will come from Ecuador, which is why Mayesh places so much emphasis on endeavoring to assure the quality of these products.

On my last day In Ecuador, I went to visit the new international airport, which is set to open on February 20th, in just seven days. The old airport became engulfed by the city, and a new airport is long overdue. It was originally slated to open in 2007, but due to political haggling and budgetary concerns it has taken until now to get to a point where it can open. Clearly it has now become politically expedient to open, whether the airport is ready or not. I say this because clearly the airport as a whole is in no state to be opening, as many of the ancillary buildings and services are not ready, and in particular almost none of the cargo facilities are complete.

 

 

The runway, control tower, taxi ways and the passenger terminal are indeed complete. However, almost none of the cargo facilities are close to being finished with the exception of the palletizing building. The customs buildings, as well as the freight forwarder facilities of some of the principal cargo agencies are still just skeletal frames comprised of huge steel girders. Estimates project these may be six more months to be completed. A lot of the parking areas are still to be completed, some of the interior roadways need to be finished, as well as the administrative center, and all in all one scratches one’s head in bewilderment; but as they say resignedly in Quito, “The airport will open because it has to!”

Fortunately for Mayesh, their freight forwarder, “Flowercargo” as well as Fresh Logistics, Royal Cargo, Pacific, Valu and EPF have a facility under construction just outside the airport boundaries that is close to completion and according to Juan-Simon Bustamente, GM of Flowercargo, will open on the 20th of February.

 

 

Unfortunately, many of the large agencies such as G & G, Panatlantic, Transinternational and the Kuehne & Nagel group are left high and dry and will have to continue operating out of Quito. This will incur massive expenses, as the farms will still need to drive to Quito, where those freight forwarders will consolidate the cargo and the truck it to the new airport, about an hour away – if there is no traffic.

 

 

The plan to open on the 20th of this month also will have grave implications for the Russian holiday of “Women’s Day”, as getting the freight organized for dispatch will be a massive head-ache. Even worse for the Russians is the fact that a lot of their Woman’s Day crop has come and gone due to the exceptionally hot weather. I have heard prices as high as cm. plus 0.80c!!!

Considering that the airport was designed for an opening in 2007, it is not surprising that it is already too small, and a second phase of construction for the passenger terminal is already in the works. Probably the greatest tragedy is that the cargo facilities were completely ignored, and have been addressed only as an afterthought. This is a pity as the chance to have a modern, efficient cargo hub has been completely dashed, and the facilities will now be a patchwork of band-aids and an inadequate mish-mash of add-ons.

Clearly, everyone in the business of importing/exporting flowers from Ecuador will have several weeks, if not months of logistics problems; and for growers, truckers, cargo agents in both Quito and Miami, as well as the final customer there will have to be a higher level of cooperation than ever before.

Even the roads to and from Quito to Tabavela, where the airport is located, have not been built, and are not expected to be completed until 2015. For passengers and cargo logistics alike the likelihood of a daily traffic nightmare will soon be realized. The new airport seems to be not so much “Back to the future”; as it is “Forward to the past.”

I wish everybody in our business all the best for Valentine’s Day, and I do hope that the one you love receives some flowers. Preferably from you! Hasta la vista.

Valentine’s Day: The Market at Saquisili

Blogger: David Dahlson

At the end of my assignment in Quito, I made a couple of trips to two sites outside Quito that illustrate compelling yet diametrically opposed aspects of Ecuador. The first is an ancient event that has been going on for at least several hundred years throughout Ecuadorian Andes, but which is now being practiced in less and less locations. This event is the country market, generally held once or twice a week, generally on Thursdays and Sundays. The most famous of these is at Otovallo, which used to be the sight of the largest country market in Ecuador, but which has devolved into a tourist market open seven days a week, featuring arts and crafts, at which the indigent Indians excel, but which nonetheless reek of pandering the gringos’ desires.

Some ten years ago, I had chanced upon one of the old Indian markets in the province of Cotopaxi while looking for a rose farm, and as I drove down the street I was suddenly surrounded by bleating sheep. They were being shepherded to market, and as I rounded a corner, I came upon a plaza that was brimming with people engaged in all kinds of commerce. It was a true farmers market, and an authentic Qechuan event where every conceivable aspect of farming was evident, and the fruits of all their labors available for sale. Sheep, pigs, cows, poultry – alive or dead – all for sale! It was striking and an image that was hard to erase.

Thus this past Thursday, prior to visiting farms, I took a trip to the Saquisili market with my good friend Renato Teran. The hubbub, jostling vendors, merchants and customers, were almost as I had remembered, but this time I was able to proceed by foot through the throng. First of all I discovered that this bi-weekly event was much larger than I remember; that it comprised not one market but four markets within the town’s center. There is the main square which features mostly produce, but also hard goods, and services such as tailor repairs. This plaza also has a few touristic stalls with arts and crafts very similar to those found in Otovallo. I imagine that the change from traditional market to that of tourist destination evolved in a similar fashion. For now, however, there are only a handful of these stands. There is also a marketplace for large live animals such as cows, pigs and sheep; a marketplace called the “Mercado de las Papas” where potatoes are predominant, but where all kinds of fresh produce are available, as well as medicinal herbs and foliages. Finally there is the “Mercado de los Cuyes”, or the Guinea-pig Market, which is primarily where live Guinea-pigs are bought and sold for human consumption, as well as ducks, geese, chickens and pigeons. Chickens and roses seems to be the theme of this year’s Valentines!!

All the markets have some overlap with each other, and all of them feature little stands serving plates of hot, steaming typical food, cooked over open grills. Pork, chicken, typical maize called Choclos, thick broths and empanadas are to be found everywhere. The streets between each of the markets are also jammed with stands selling more items and where hawkers shout at the top of their voices in a sing-song way advertising their wares. Any cars that find themselves on these streets are doomed to move through the throng at about 3mph, and no amount of horn-honking will move the crowd.

Most of the patrons of the market at Saquisili are Indian, and for now their customs continue to endure, but for how much longer seems hard to tell. While these descendants of the Inca continue to subscribe to their traditions, particularly speaking their own language of Qechua, their peculiarly unique clothes for both sexes and their cuisine; the revolution of so-called advanced societies seems to be slowly and ineffably challenging this way of life. Ironically, almost every Indian in Ecuador has a cell phone.

If you have a chance, I urge you to visit the old market at Saquisili before it is gone forever. In the next post I will look at Quito’s new international airport, which offers to bring even more change to Ecuador’s landscape.

 

Valentine’s Day: Last Load

Guest Blogger: David Dahlson

 

Last night was the last large load to go out for Valentine’s Day 2013. From hence forward the roses move to various destinations in the USA where it will be the turn of wholesalers, distributors and their clients to work the long hours. My work with regard to the holiday is pretty much done. Yesterday and today I spent visiting two distinct aspects of Ecuador; the old and traditional as well as the new and modern, which I shall write about in the next few days. I also went to a few farms, and was particularly struck by one plantation that is growing Eryngium Alpinum and Ranunculus.

The Eryngium is a new hybrid that has very stout stems, with upwards of four flowers per stem. When the flower is mature it displays a remarkably strong, deep indigo blue inflorescence with deeply cut ornamental bracts. According to the grower the vase life is excellent, with up to two weeks in the vase after it is received by the florist. Eryngium is originally an Alpine flower grown at fairly high altitudes, and in this environment in Ecuador where they are grown outdoors, the plants look very healthy. The flower is also very attractive in an immature state with green flowers and bracts that are lighter green striped with an almost white hue in the middle of the bract. This product looks very appealing and Mayesh should be seeing some samples some time in March.

At this same farm, they are also producing Ranunculus which also look like an attractive product and they will have year round production. They use bulbs imported from Biancheri in San Remo, Italy, and the flowers that I saw in the greenhouse show promise of being a very useful item for the USA markets especially when the Californian growers are done for the season. The color palette is broad, but largely focused on pastel colors, as well as red, purple and hot pink. These will be available as the California season comes to a close in April.

At this farm, the grower showed me some new rose varieties that had an interesting twist: Most of the modern rose varieties used for cut flowers are developed by breeders located predominantly in Holland and Germany, however an Ecuadorian breeder called Santiago Brown has started breeding roses in Ecuador. So far the roses that I have seen are not that striking, although they seem to be very strong. One that is pictured here called “Nina”, is a superior upgrade to the old Red Unique, with very long stems. It is currently very popular in Russia.

So there it is, another holiday passing by, and I am none the younger for it. However, I think I may be a little wiser and that is a good thing. Certainly, I have found it useful to keep an open mind on all things that cross my path. In closing this post, it seems poignantly appropriate to end with an image of the tractor hauling Mayesh’s roses to the airport, a truck that the owner has aptly named “Seductor” or in English “Seducer”!!

 

Valentine’s Day: A Floral Conundrum

Blogger: David Dahlson

When is a florist not a florist?
When he grows over sixty acres of flowers in Ecuador.

 

When is a grower not a grower?
When he produces beautiful hand-tied bouquets in the European style for sale in the USA.

 

At Bellaflor, in the small but rapidly growing town of Puembo, in what will shortly become the suburbs of a virulently growing Quito, they have been producing a wide selection of attractive cut flowers for many years now. Because they are at a lower elevation than most of the rose farms, Bellaflor produces a rose with a somewhat smaller head than is typical, and I would say that in many cases not so vulgar. They also grow beautiful gypsophila, as well as wide array of other flowers including chrysanthemum, veronica, amaranthus, lysimachia and molucella to name a few. Recent introductions include succulents, senecio cineraria and variegated mini-pittisporum (niger). For many years they have been producing export quality flowers, but the owner Hans Peter Hug, was forever lamenting the discarding of perfectly good flowers that were too short to meet export criteria. This where the European florist within Hans Peter’s personality prompted an examination of the marketplace and how these shorter stems could be better put to use.

Hans Peter Hug is originally from Switzerland where he received training in floral design, and as a young man moved to London in the sixties to be where the action was. He worked as a florist in Hendon, about 5 miles from where I grew up, and it could be I passed him on the way to the bowling alley in Hendon, one never knows. Peter eventually found his way to Ecuador where he started a small growing operation, while I travelled to Los Angeles. A little known fact is that Hans Peter did the landscaping at Florecal in his early days in Ecuador!

For me personally, Hans Peter is a wonderful spirit in our industry and his passion is incandescent, a trait sorely lacking in the flower business. He really knows about flowers, and also understands their peculiar magic. Yet his passion is founded on a platform of flower design and methodology that is peculiarly European and involves various economies in one’s work and one’s art. The economy that is required to be successful in a flower business is one of not wasting anything, but rather seeing all organic materials as having potential for design, and in turn generating revenue. I can see in my mind’s eye to this day a floral presentation some twenty years ago by Rene van Rems, a dutch designer residing in California. He was cleaning a stem of Aster Nova-belgii, and pointing out that all the lower laterals, although short, could be used for other work; and that by cleaning from the bottom-up, rather than by stripping the flowers from the top down (as is so often the case in many American shops), you would gather enough material to contribute to several other arrangements, thereby increasing the potential for profit. He highlighted this fact by telling the audience that as a student his teacher would rap him across the knuckles if any flowers, however short, fell to the floor!

Thus, in this same thrifty tradition, Hans Peter Hug decided to start using this shorter material to make rather petite posies and small bouquets. For several years, he was met with stout resistance from the American floral marketplace, but today is shipping thousands of delightful, charming and casual posies into the USA. But in contrast to most bouquet operations, Hans Peter has managed to not only teach his predominantly female staff to correctly bunch the stems in a spiral and hand-tie all the bunches (no rubber bands in sight!); but also instill charm and whimsy into every bouquet, a feat that is very difficult. Of course one of the main keys to this is to have a wide array of materials at hand to create these items, an obstacle that Hans Peter Hug has no problem with. And he continues to search for new items that can be grown in his micro-climate, in order to have a menu of blooms and foliages that can be combined in an endless array of possibilities. What is particularly impressive and noteworthy is that during all of the rush of Valentine’s Day, his team was able to produce, obviously mass-produce, these items and yet retain an attractive simplicity that is quite beguiling.

I know this to be true from seeing the results, some of which are pictured here, and then learning that Hans Peter was off skiing in Switzerland with his family.

He continues to grow wonderful floral items for the professional designer, and at Mayesh they present many of Bellaflor’s items on a daily basis, as the company still strives to produce wonderful items for the professional floral designer. Of late they have introduced several kinds of senecio cineraria, or Dusty Miller, as well as the classic “Iceberg”, a floribunda rose developed by Kordes in 1958 that is fabulous for wedding work.

 

 

Look out for the brand, and ask a Mayesh sales associate about their flowers and availability.

Valentine’s Day: Coming & Going

Just so you know, I have been in the wholesale flower industry for over thirty years now, and I can tell that in these holidays my body does not bounce back like it used to. In fact I don’t think it bounces at all anymore, and it is with some effort that I get from horizontal back to vertical, and from cold back to warm. Nonetheless the task at hand needs to get done, and thus it is onwards and upwards. The last of our large shipments goes out tomorrow which means only one more grueling, cold night in the coolers….honestly I am beginning to feel like a frozen McNugget!!

Incredibly the flowers keep coming and coming, although there now seems to be a slowing of production. I know this because the flow of trucks coming into the cargo agency was rapid and swift, as they had less to unload, because most orders have been completed. Mayesh still had a very large load to be prepare for shipment, and there will be a similar amount tonight.

The imperturbable phytosanitary inspectors continue their work, and it seems that no-one is immune from their microscopic examinations. Last night all of Mayesh’s David Austin roses from RosaPrima were rejected because of a Thrips infestation. This is amazing because RosaPrima is one of the best rose farms in Ecuador if not the world and their post-harvest protocols amongst the best, and yet the ubiquitous Thrip seems to be everywhere. The action also tells me that the inspectors appear to be very impartial and indiscriminate; which, while extremely annoying last night, does speak to their professionalism which in the long run can only be good for the industry.

At the airport the congestion has all but disappeared with most boxes getting out of Ecuador this morning. All in all the oversaturation woes of the logistical side of the Valentine season that I outlined earlier have finally abated. Everything has moved out or is palletized ready to leave, and even Lanchile is operating as normal.

Stepping back to look at the big picture, I earnestly hope that all segments of the cut flower industry, especially growers, wholesalers and florists, do well as the amount of time, effort, hard work and goodwill that is expended in the V-Day season is a testament to the human spirit and I hope it translates into substantial remuneration for all concerned.

 

Valentine’s Day: GIT R’DONE

Last night was the mother of cold, wet Valentine’s Day shipping days. This was the peak day of the 2013 event and the rose farms in Ecuador are trying to fulfill all their orders. Trucks have had to make three or four trips from farm to Quito and back again, and cargo agencies were receiving flowers well into the wee hours of the morning. Almost all cargo vehicles are rented out at this time, so some growers are sending flowers in pick-ups in which boxes of expensive roses are swathed in plastic to protect from the rain. Personally, I reject any flowers arriving in this condition, as they have no cooling and little protection. Speaking of rain, the heavens finally opened on a dry, parched Ecuador that has not had any precipitation in over two months and has continued to rain non-stop from yesterday morning until now, and the weather forecast calls for several days of the same. This of course will engender another set of problems for growers, including an onslaught of fungal issues including botrytis and mildew.

The last couple of nights had been very smooth for Mayesh’s delivery of flowers, but last night the sheer volume of product arriving combined with dangerous driving conditions and late dispatches of trucks from the farms made for a long night. Working through the traffic of precariously loaded pallet jacks moving from staging area to trucks by young, impertinent stevedores, as well as constant revision of products by customer agents such as myself and the agricultural inspectors and constricted by an all too congested cold room, the task at hand was finally accomplished at 2am. At this time I was able to send Mayesh’s load of beautiful roses off to UPS, even though a few farms had to be left behind as they were too late to make the cut-off.

 

Valentine’s Day: Tales from the Crypt or Your Freight Update

Blogger: David Dahlson

 

Well, not actually the crypt but from the depths of the frigid coolers in Quito I can report on the chaos that is happening at the cargo agencies, as well as the delinquency at the companies who palletize the flowers for the airlines.

Generally speaking all the flowers from the farms are delivered to the freight-forwarders’ coolers. Each customer uses a freight forwarder to consolidate the cargo from the farms, which in turn is then delivered to the airport where it enters one of several palletizing companies who prepare the loads for the airlines. When the volumes are this high, as is usual at Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day, the capacity to handle, refrigerate and deliver in a timely fashion becomes particularly strained. This year estimates put the amount of flowers at about 10% higher than last year, and the trade association Expoflores puts it as high as 13%. In fact on Saturday night three freight forwarders collapsed under the load and the palletizing operation was severely compromised.

This situation is a direct result of the people who control the airport to allow some freight forwarders to share the coolers of the palletizing companies. In the USA this would never be allowed as they are supposed to be bonded, secure and segregated from other commercial interests. I do not think that it takes much imagination to conjecture how such arrangements may have been made. The conflict of interest and the paralyzing consequences have never been so apparent as this year.

 

Valentine’s Day: Rose Farm News

Guest Blogger: David Dahlson

 

Readers of the Mayesh blog over the years will be aware that Ecuador is divided into two main and distinct rose-growing regions, which in the interests of brevity can be termed the “North”, as in the area about 35 miles to the north of Quito (Ecuado’s capital) and the “South” a region that starts 30 miles to the south of Quito and extends a further 25 miles.

Each year I travel to one zone and visit the other on alternating days. After being in the South yesterday, today was the turn to travel to the North. On the way there I visited one notable farm called Bellaflor which is actually a single farm located in Puembo some 15 miles or so from Quito. Mayesh has purchased flowers from this now well established plantation for many, many years now; especially their beautiful gypsophila, roses and wide array of summer flowers. I will do an in-depth look at them later. Considering that my focus is on roses at the moment I can say that of all the rumors I had heard of farms being early with Valentine’s roses, as far as I am concerned, this is the only farm that I have seen that is truly early, and even then only by a few days. This was to be expected in a period of such intense sun that Ecuador experienced since December, as Bellaflor is at much lower altitude than most rose farms. In point of fact our pre-book with them had to be cut as there simply are not enough roses being produced at this plantation to fill the orders on the days required.

 

Valentine’s Day: Frying Chickens & Red Roses

It is Sunday night and while I’m working on publishing this blog post, it is extremely cold here in Cleveland (19 degrees outside) and my husband is sleeping with the alarm clock set to wake him at 3am, which means that the Valentine’s Day holiday is almost upon us.  I also know that the holiday is kicking into full gear because David Dahlson will be our guest blogger keeping us up-to-date on our roses and sharing with us the his experiences from Quito.  Enjoy!

 

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