The roses are in full splendor in fields in the Kenyan Highlands. The order books of the flower wholesale traders are full. Again this year, it will rain red roses on Valentine's Day. Lufthansa Cargo alone expects that about 500 tons of roses will fly in the first two February weeks in air-freighters from Kenya's capital Nairobi to Frankfurt. In the freight holds of Lufthansa passenger aircraft heading for Germany, an additional 200 tons are expected from farms in Ethiopia, Ecuador and Columbia.
"We expect a similar volume this year as in the previous year" Gerhard Ziran tells us. According to information obtained from the purchasing manager of the flower wholesaler Omniflora in Neu- Isenburg on the outskirts of Frankfurt, until now, the financial crisis made a big detour around the German flower market. This is particularly the case on the 14th of February - the day for lovers: " Roses on Valentine’s Day and also Mother’s Day are for German men, obligatory." Zieran explained, that for years the flower market has been in upheaval and especially florists have lost customers to supermarkets, discounters, builders’ markets or gas stations - but altogether, business is "with slight growing tendency",stable.
The data from the Federal Office for Statistics also verify this. For the year 2000, the data recorded 41.176 tons of imported roses. In 2006 the volume climbed to 43 144 tons and in 2008, it peaked at 44 004 tons. Between 33.582 (in 2000) and 37.413 in 2008, the last year that the statisticians in Wiesbaden fully recorded, the majority of imported roses came traditionally from Holland.
However, young and aggressive producers of roses like those found in the South American countries Ecuador and Columbia and in the African countries Kenya and Ethiopia, increasingly compete with the growers in the Netherlands. This is because in the Highlands of South America and Africa , the longstemmed variety of flowers thrive and are particularly environmentally friendly, thanks to the tropical climate- and this, in spite of air transport over thousands of kilometers from their growing countries to European markets.
A comparative study from Cranfield University in England, in regards to the climate balance of the growing of roses in Kenya and in Holland, arrived at a very surprising conclusion: in spite of a ten- hour flight from Nairobi to Great Britain, energy consumption and CO2 emissions are for the roses grown in the Netherlands during the winter months six times higher than the energy costs of the Kenya roses. The Dutch roses score in the comparison considerably poorer, because they are grown in heated and artificially lighted hot-houses, thus causing enormous energy costs. In Kenya the roses grow in the open under optimal climatic conditions. The many greenhouses which one encounters there, serve only as a protection against heavy rainfall.
The German Investment- and Development Company (DEG), a derivative of the KfW Bank Group, which has subsidized five flower farms in Kenya and one in Uganda with development -aid funds, sums up, "...that contrary to popular opinion, the greenhouse effect of the Kenyan rose production together with the emissions caused by the air-freighters is far less than the emission-level of the rose production in the Netherlands." With this, one reads in the development- aid representative’s concluding remarks, it can be presumed, that "the rose farm, which is subsidized by the DEG after taking into consideration the global environmental protection and the international differentiation of labor (comparative locational advantages due to geographic and climatic conditions), constitute, in regards to development policy, a worthy sponsoring approach".
Moreover, the South American and African farms were able to score more frequently with another certificate. More and more businesses comply with the social and ecological standards of the Flower Label Programm e.V. (FLP). The label was created in 1998 by the human-rights organizations like "Terre des Hommes" or "Bread for the World" as well as by unions and representatives in the flower sector. It stipulates under which social and environmentally compatible framework conditions, flowers must be grown: no child labor, set employment contracts, fair wages, good social benefits and the renunciation of extremely poisonous pesticides. At the present time, 56 farms in Ecuador, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Portugal have the certificate.
Because those floral greetings of love from Kenya, Ecuador or Ethiopia are, above all, perishable products, the logistics chain from the cutting of the flower in Africa or South America, until (its arrival at) the flower shop in Hamburg or Munich, must reliably function. The fundamental requirement for this, is a rapid means of transport at a constant temperature- between two and four degrees Celsius. In the environmentallycontrolled holds in the MD-11 air-freighter, as well as in the belly of a passenger airplane, constant temperature is assured. After the arrival at the Frankfurt Rhein-Main-Airport, short transport routes to the Perishable Center, the largest center for perishable objects in Germany, provide for quick cargo handling. From here the magnificent display of flowers leave usually on the same day in every direction, on their journey through Germany, in order to be in the local florist’s shop on time for St.Valentine’s Day.
But heads up: In this year, many male customers will find themselves standing before closed doors. Why? Because this year, the 14th of February falls on a Sunday.