Tuesday, March 20, the planet will celebrate spring! The opportunity for many listeners to offer or… to offer themselves flowers! As surprising as it may seem, the cut flower market is one of the sectors that has suffered the least from the Covid-19 pandemic. If Europe still imports the majority of its flowers, it operates a serious shift. Cultivate and transport more local! Hortense Harang, co-founder of the French company Fleurs d’ici was rewarded for the benefits of her business. A former BBC journalist in London, she explains her conversion to online sales to Marina Mielczarek.
Marina Mielczarek: Spring and therefore the flower season with your idea of not making the flowers travel too far…
Hortense Harang : That’s exactly it! In France, 85% of flowers are imported. The exporting countries are Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya.
RFI: Your concept at Fleurs d’ici, your company, is therefore to relocate the market.
HH: At Fleurs d’ici, we are the first to offer local and seasonal flowers. Because paradoxically, it is easier today to have flowers delivered from the end of the world rather than from the neighboring horticulturist.
RFI: Is this due in particular to the organization of transport in Europe, which is done from the major ports of the Netherlands?
HH: Yes. The Dutch are the pioneers of the cut flower market. Historically they started after the war thanks to the polders, their gas-powered agricultural platforms by the sea. So before the war and until the 1960s, the Netherlands, which possessed immense gas resources, began this production of flowers in heated greenhouses on a large scale to take the lead in the industry. Then, when the labor cost was too expensive in Europe, they relocated to developing countries.
RFI: In Africa and Latin America?
HH: Kenya, Colombia and Ecuador are the countries that today export the most tulips, roses… With the help of cargo planes, diesel trucks and ships that criss-cross the world and pollute.
RFI: It’s quite strange since flowers by definition when they are cut are damaged and fade very quickly!
HH : Me, I say that these exported cut flowers have been botoxed! They are stuck in crates. They are placed in the refrigerated holds of vehicles for long journeys with stages in airport docks. Have you ever bought pink flowers out of season? Well these are flowers that don’t open, they don’t bloom!
RFI: So your specificity is to have brought producers closer to carriers?
HH : Our specialty at Fleurs d’ici is the 160 km! We connect with our website a local producer (for example in Bordeaux or Lille) with a carrier from Bordeaux or Lille) within a radius that will not exceed 160 km for delivery. This is the reason why we can make these journeys in electric vehicles.
RFI: The concept is developed and works well in France. But seen as a former BBC reporter who knows the world, why not generalize it on a planetary scale?
HH : This is our intention! We are working to be able to expand orders to producing countries on the planet.
RFI: Does that mean that you can order from a Kenyan producer from Paris and ensure transport to Kenya with a local carrier?
HH: Yes ! And it works with flowers so… if it works with flowers, it can work with all kinds of other merchandise! Moreover, at Fleurs d’ici we are already well advanced in adapting this concept to food products.