The global cut flower trade is estimated to be worth more than $100 billion a year.
The Netherlands, a major cut flowers exporter, makes up 55% of trade, while Colombia follows next at 18%, Ecuador at 9% and Kenya at 6%. The United States buys 17% of the world’s flowers, the second largest market in the world (after Germany).
Cut flowers are becoming increasingly important to the economies of developing countries, providing vital foreign exchange to invest in development.
Most flowers are grown on commercial farms and are the means of a better income for millions of workers. For example, Colombian flower exports provide work for around 800,000 people while the flower industry in Kenya is the second biggest agricultural foreign exchange earner after tea, bringing in over $250 million a year and providing incomes for around two million people.
The flower industry employs a mainly female, poor and less educated workforce, making flowers workers among the most vulnerable. Historically, it has been seen as a sector with poor working conditions, including low pay, overcrowded housing and repression of trade unions. But while conditions have greatly improved in many countries over the years, there are still hurdles to overcome.
Fairtrade works with certified flower farms to protect workers’ rights and ensure decent working conditions, while also supporting them to have a stronger voice. A study (PDF, 2.4 MB) by Fairtrade International with three Fairtrade flower farms in Ecuador shows how workers feel about their own empowerment and how Fairtrade can support them to make their goals a reality.
Fairtrade flower workers’ organizations can invest the earned Fairtrade Premium in projects of their choosing. In 2013, Fairtrade flower workers earned almost $5.6 million in Premium, which they spent on education for themselves, their families and in their communities, improvements to housing, training and finance and credit services. You can learn about how the Premium has empowered workers and contributed to community development by watching this video about Ravie Roses , a Fairtrade flower farm in Kenya.