Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Today I drove up to the area north of Quito where roses are grown to review the farms that are supplying Mayesh for the Valentine holiday. The zone is generally termed Cayambe/Tabacundo but also includes the pueblos of Tupigachi and Guachalla.
Driving through Tabacundo, I passed the T-junction known as the "Y de Tabacundo" where it seems the monolith featured in "2001: A Space Odyssey" was resonating ominously under a dark, cloudy sky. I could hear the opening staccato beats of the tympani from the opening sequence of "Also Sprach Zaruthstra" playing in my mind. It is almost as if this year's visit to Ecuador has undercurrents of classical semiology. but unlike the golden Caryatids that I saw yesterday, this neo-fascist slab of concrete was  foreboding in its blank, gray, useless presence.
This rose-growing area, in contrast with the southern rose-growing region, it turns out has had almost no sun for two months. Continuous cloud cover such has this severely impacts the productivity of the rose plants, and all the farms that I visited have been impacted to a greater or lesser extent. For Mayesh customers it will be a relief to know that the rose buyer, whether by luck, detailed planning, coincidence or probably a bit of all three, had elected to make most of the bookings with farms in the south. Nonetheless we have some important suppliers in the north and it seems that there will be no extras over and above the pre-books this year.
I walked through greenhouse after greenhouse with thousands of plants burgeoning with buds but unfortunately many of them will not bloom in time for the Valentine's harvest. It is almost a cruel heartless joke that nature is playing with these growers, as the productivity of the plants seems to be lower than normal, even though they have taken every measure to increase production. 
BOOM, boom, BOOM, boom, BOOM, boom...BOOM....boom...

Clearly, as you can see in these photographs taken at Florecal, one of the top farms in Ecuador,  there is production, but just not the overabundance that we have become accustomed to. Part of the reason, in my opinion, is that growers are not pinching back the plants like they used to do so any hiccup in the weather erases any gains that may have been reaped from marginal cleaning of the plants. The main reason there is less incentive to pinch for Valentine's is that many growers now have a sustainable year round business that is profitable, and manipulating the plants for higher yields at holidays is deleterious to this stability. I believe that this is better for our business in the long run as the roses maintain a higher quality due to less stress on the plants. However looking myopically at the short term, as we are wont to do, and with Valentine's Day looming large, it is rather annoying.

Another significant problem casting a pall over an already tight market is the service of Lan-Chile airlines, who had a backlog of some 3,000 full boxes sequestered at the airport with no aircraft to move them, which has swelled to some 4,000 today, and the forecast is that it will take at lest until Thursday to work through the backlog. This is also choking the coolers at the airport and bringing one of the companies licensed and bonded to make the pallets that go into the cargo aircraft to a complete halt by saturating that companies coolers. While Mayesh only uses UPS, it is important to highlight the circumstances that exist in the industry at present. This is certainly a scandal, especially given the tight market conditions that exist here, and I imagine a review of the incident must occur after Valentines, especially as the trade organisation of Ecuadorian floriculture, "Expoflores" has already demanded a review of the problem from the Minister of Transportation.

Some notes on the photographs.
Images 2 - 6 courtesy Florecal. Their post harvest is incredibly well organised, and most of what they do is neither new nor original, but  it is the consistent application of many disciplines with a view to facilitating the labor that allows for focus on the final product; a premium rose.
Image # 2 - view of the post-harvest hall with grading racks
Image # 3 - roses being prepared fro grading
Image # 4 - Close-up of the grading rack. This system allows easy visual selection of homogeneous cutting points. First instituted at Flores de Napoli c. 2005
Image # 5 - Preparing the bunch
Image # 6 - Another bunch being prepared,; note the mirror that allows the packer to see the disposition of the flower heads, without having to peer at the bunch.

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