Felipe Ospina was waiting patiently for his farm's roses to bud and bloom so they would be shipped to the United States just in time for Valentine's Day. But a crippling frost burned almost 40 percent of his crop this week.
And he was lucky.
Some of the dozens of greenhouses that dot the savannah surrounding the Colombian capital, Bogota, lost their entire production to unusually low temperatures that dipped to 19 degrees, according to the Colombian Association of Flower Producers.
The association does not have figures yet for how much was lost, but it says about 30 percent of the 13,837 acres planted with flowers northeast of Bogotá was hit.
Colombia supplies about 60 percent of all the roses sold in the United States for Valentine's Day and 77 percent of all fresh-cut flowers through the year.
But now Colombian growers fear they may lose part of their most important market. Ospina, manager of the Teucalí Flowers farm near the small town of Sopó, shook his head as he walked through the greenhouses. He pointed to the hundreds of burned buds still on the bushes that would have been worth as much as a dollar each if they had survived to Valentine's Day.
"We won't be able to fill all the orders," he said, although most of the red roses -- which have the highest demand this time of year -- were saved because of a new protective cloth the farm was trying out to guard against the low temperatures often seen in December and January.
"The frosts are normal and we experiment with different things to try to protect the flowers. Only 10 percent of the reds were affected but unfortunately, we didn't cover them all," Ospina said.
This year's frost, though not the most severe, came earlier than normal.
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