by Hope Katz Gibbs
Profiles / Continental Airlines
Photo: Dan Shypula, owner U.S. Floral Corp.
Miami has become the crucial nexus between the flower-growing fields of the world and the florists of cities all over the U.S. In fact, Miami is the largest port of entry in the U.S. for imported flowers, mostly due to its proximity to Colombia (which supplied 90 percent of the city’s flower imports last year) and other Latin American countries such as Ecuador and Costa Rica.
There’s also a growing flower trade with European countries such as the Netherlands, and two up and coming exporters, Italy and Kenya.
According, to the Association of Floral Importers of Florida, the annual dollar volume of cut flowers coming through Miami International Airport has nearly doubled in the last five years to $348 million. This means a blossoming business in Miami, from importing to wholesale to distribution to the rest of the United States.
“We sell over a million roses a month,” says Dan Shypula, owner of U.S. Floral Corp., a flower importer with annual revenue of $7-8 million. “And that’s just one of our products. We probably have over 50.”
Most of Shypula’s inventory is imported from Holland, Colombia, and Ecuador, as well as the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, not to mention domestic growers in Florida and California. Shypula sells his blossoms to wholesale florists all over the U.S.
During peak season (the six months between Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day).
Morey Moss, owner of Berkeley, one of the oldest flower wholesalers in Miami, sells up to 500,000 roses. In a twist, Moss not only imports from abroad but also exports abroad, too-to about 500 retailers in the Caribbean and South America.
Things are also bright for Sunburst Farms, Miami’s largest importer. Sunburst not only imports from Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico, but also New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, and Kenya. And the company, though it doesn’t release figures, has doubled the quantity of products it distributes to wholesalers throughout the U. S. and Canada over the last five years, according to marketing director Geno Valdes.
“People are buying more,” he notes. “I think the penetration through supermarkets has helped.”
The rise in imports has not only affected the flower business in Miami but also in the rest of the country. Cut-rate rose shops have been popping up in major cities across the country. And America is buying more flowers of every kind. Consumption is growing at about 7 percent per year.
But as Valdes points out, “This is still a young business. Compared to Europeans, Americans consume only one-third of what they do. That gives you an idea of the potential this business has.”
According to the Association of Floral Importers of Florida:
• Daily, 12,000 to 15,000 boxes of flowers arrive at Miami International Airport (MIA).
• Imported flowers supply 45 percent of the demand in the United States.
• Duties paid to U.S. Customs last year totaled $18 million.
• The annual dollar volume of cut flowers imported through MIA is projected at $401 million for 1990.