Colombia's record rainfall threatens Mother's Day flower exports

Some of the heaviest rains in Colombia’s history have killed at least 418 people, damaged or destroyed 140,000 homes and affected three million people over the last several months.

Now the country’s brutal weather could have an additional economic kick felt in South Florida, as the country misses out on a Mother’s Day export boom.

Colombia’s National Association of Flower Exporters said some of the country’s prime flower-farming areas were among the hardest hit by storms that have intensified over the last two weeks.

While the association is still trying to tally the damage, some farms — particularly in the savannah north of the capital — have been totally wiped out.

“On an individual basis, there are some dramatic cases with total losses and farms that are completely underwater,” said Augusto Solano Mejia, the association’s president. “But it’s impossible to generalize. We still don’t know how many acres were affected. But we’re trying to resolve these issues and help producers ship their holiday orders.”

Solano estimated the damage could range from 5 to 15 percent of national production. The agricultural assistance program for the municipality of Chía — one of the nation’s major flower-growing areas — said it estimated that 60 percent of the region’s farms had been damaged.

The hit comes as growers were preparing shipments for Mother’s Day on May 8 — when a quarter of all flower sales take place in the United States, according to the Society of American Florists.

Colombia is the United States’ top flower exporter, supplying 65 percent of all the country’s fresh-cut flowers. And Miami handles 89 percent of all flower imports that come into the United States.

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