flower market auction © Beautifulblossom
© Beautifulblossom

It’s not quite a St Valentine’s Day Massacre, but shortage of air freight capacity saw the price of importing roses soar in the run-up to today’s romantic festival.

It’s one of the busiest times of year for air cargo and  has put additional pressure on an already tight market.

The US Wall St Journal reports that flower producers and  importers have struggled to secure capacity, from Africa in particular, which has little in the way of backhaul volumes, and Panalpina was forced to charter more than 20 freighter flights.

WSJ adds that the price for shipping a kg of roses into Europe doubled to $2.90, while routes into Australia cost as much as $6.

And it’s not just airline capacity that has struggled. Flower-centric Schiphol announced that January freight volumes fell 1.6%, while the number of cargo flights fell 7.2% year-on-year.

The delayed introduction of the ‘local rule’, which could see more cargo flights returned to the capacity-stricken airport, may have contributed to fewer flower imports at a critical time of the year, and more trucking from rival European airports to the Aalsmeer flower auction, outside Amsterdam.

Nevertheless, hub carrier Air France-KLM Cargo, which has maintained its slots at the airport, shipped some 3,000 tonnes of flowers in the past two weeks. Importing from Nairobi, Quito and Bogota, the carrier said the flowers were primarily for European, Russian and Asian markets.

Perhaps surprisingly, the airline, at the centre of the flower trade, carried half the amount of blooms last year than Emirates SkyCargo, which said it carried 100,000 tonnes during 2017.

For this Valentine’s Day, Emirates SkyCargo shifted more than 300 tonnes of flowers to Amsterdam to be sold at Aalsmeer, via three additional dedicated freighter flights.

Kenya accounts for some 7% of the global floral trade, and Europe imports some 35% of Kenya’s flowers, noted Cargolux. The Luxembourg carrier added 1,200 tonnes of capacity to its scheduled 20 weekly flights out of Nairobi, Quito and Bogota.

Not to be outdone, Lufthansa Cargo said it would be moving some 800 tonnes this year, or 11 MD-11 freighter flights.

American Airlines, meanwhile, added chocolate to the list of seasonal gifts it moved, claiming its perishable product worked well for the sweet treats. It said the first half of February was especially busy – in 2017, it carried roughly 25 tons a day.

”Considering a typical flower weighs less than 10 grams, that’s a mind-boggling amount of blossoming cargo,” it noted.

AA adds that the most popular flowers for Valentine’s Day tend to be “carnations, mini-carnations, roses and tropical flowers, like calla lilies”.

Of course, the commercialised day is the perfect opportunity for carriers to put out the message about their temperature-controlled products. But one has gone a step further in opportunistic publicity.

ONE, the new shipping group made up of three Japanese container lines, has used the day to celebrate the continuing introduction of its pink containers into the market.

According to Seatrade, the US port of Long Beach tweeted a picture of three of the new magenta containers, which had arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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