The Association of Colombian Flower Exporters, Asocolflores, took issue with an article posted online in October about the Colombian floral industry. The author, Linda Farthing, writing for Upside Down World, an online magazine covering activism and politics in Latin America, was critical of the industry’s treatment of workers, particularly women. Following is the complete text of Asocolflores’ response to the article.

     Linda Farthing would have you believe otherwise, but the reality is that Colombian flowers do build a better life for workers in a developing country.

     The Association of Colombian Flower Exporters expressed its concern over the inconsistencies uncovered in Linda Farthing’s article, “Where Flowers Bloom So Does Hope: Colombia’s Troubled Flower Industry,” recently posted on the Web.

     To start with, Ms. Farthing fails to acknowledge the fact that Colombian flower growers are at the vanguard of one of the most comprehensive corporate social responsibility efforts to be found on the continent. In the same vein, her zeal to fulfill her personal agenda tied to numerous union organizations and international NGOs [non-governmental organizations] leads her to overtly exclude Colombian floriculture’s significant advances geared toward raising the quality of life of the almost 1 million Colombians involved in growing flowers around the country over the past 15 years.

     Colombian floriculture has consolidated its position as the country’s top-ranking non-traditional export, currently generating more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. To a person, this industry’s Asocolflores-affiliated workers receive 100 percent coverage for social security benefits, pensions and worker’s compensation insurance. The Colombian flower industry is the country’s largest employer of women in rural areas, filling 25 percent of jobs for Colombian women, not to mention its being the biggest creator of jobs per hectare in the country.

     These important facts about Colombian floriculture must be taken into account to avoid falling into the trap of reporting isolated instances and sweeping generalizations by writers with biased agendas that serve only to undermine the tremendous efforts and achievements of the majority of Colombian flower growers. The entrepreneurs behind Colombian floriculture are deeply committed to sustainability, social responsibility and the appropriate use of natural resources. Their undertakings have led to
Florverde® certification playing a key role in promoting the implementation of the very highest socio-environmental growing standards fully benchmarked and harmonized with the widely accepted and respected international GLOBALG.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practices) as of 2008.

     As an example, these realities allow Asocolflores to point to one of Ms. Farthing’s numerous inaccuracies, such as her assertion that Colombian floriculture is somehow depleting the Bogotá Savanna’s water resources. Ms. Farthing’s allegation in this case is completely unfounded and without merit. Flower farms occupy only 5,500 hectares of a 200,000-hectare area [2.75 percent of the Savanna land area]. Further, current studies demonstrate that Florverde®-certified flower farms have indeed reduced their water dependency and, consequently, the impact on the Savanna watershed and groundwater consumption by 44 percent as a result of rainwater collection efforts.

     Colombian floriculture has, without a doubt, faced the thorny issue of the appreciation of its peso and endured significant reductions in its earnings. But it is no less certain that its business owners and managers have been able to continue the essential strides forward in innovation and competitiveness. These entrepreneurs have been able to strengthen their presence in major markets, deliver their products to new destinations, boost their standards of quality, and press ahead with vital projects such as flower shipments by sea — to highlight just a few of their achievements.

     Colombian floriculture is a transparent open-door industry, readily available to substantiate its production processes and worker programs for any visitor who wishes to see things firsthand, and to show the other great accomplishments and achievements that reporters like Linda Farthing prefer to ignore. Those interested in the true story are most definitely welcome and invited to Colombia, Land of Flowers.

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