Americans' affinity for cheaper Valentine's Day gifts — and U.S. trade deals from the '90s designed to encourage Colombia to ship something other than cocaine — has stifled American rose production and made Colombia a flower power, The Washington Post reported.
American flower producers have seen a 95 percent drop in rose production — 545 million to less than 30 million annually, according to the report — in the past 27 years since Congress passed "Andean Trade Preference Act" during the George H.W. Bush administration. The bill lifted a 6 percent import tax on countries like Colombia, which had a booming drug smuggling industry working.
The idea was to encourage the country's growers to ship things other than drugs to the U.S., among policies enacted during the '90s drug wars.
Now, Colombia ships more than four billion flowers to the U.S. per year, about a dozen per resident, and Valentine's Day season can account for 20 percent of annual rose revenue, according to the Post.
Colombia flowers are cheaper to produce, due to low labor cost and efficient shipping, often getting to U.S. consumers more quickly than even U.S. growers can — Walmart alone is purchasing 24 million Colombian roses this season, the Post reported.
The Obama administration's U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement in 2012 helped create the imbalance, stomping out fees on Colombian flowers and instead encouraging the U.S. to corn, soybean, wheat and oil to Colombia tariff-free.
"It's been helping for years," Bogota-based Avianca Cargo's Andres Osorio told the Post. "There are certain incentives that make it easier for the growers, but it's also the consumption habits of the market."
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