While no rose species are native to South America, the highlands of central Ecuador proved perfect for the production of long-stemmed roses. Ecuadorian roses refer to any rose grown, produced and exported from the nation for sale to wholesale and retail florists. Roughly one third of all cut roses in the United States were grown in Ecuador, according to a 2008 report by PBS television's "Frontline World."
Rose Production History
In the 20th century, much of the world's rose cut flowers were produced in The Netherlands. By the middle to late decades of that century, flower production expanded to include substantial fields in east-central Africa, Southeast Asia and northwestern South America. Since the early 1990s, various trade restrictions were lifted on drug-producing Latin American countries, including Ecuador. Roses are also cultivated for the cut flower trade in nearby Colombia and Peru. Flowers emerged as a stable and marketable international crop for Third World nations, yielding profits considerably higher than traditional fresh fruit orchards.
Roses in Ecuador
The central Andean highlands of Ecuador provide climate and local labor advantageous to production of cut flower roses in simple greenhouses. The high elevation with drier air and more intense sun rays along with cooler nighttime temperatures helps rose plants develop sturdy, long stems topped with plump flower buds. Around 60 rose varieties grow commercially in Ecuador. Flower colors include ubiquitous red and yellow as well as the purple-blooming Ravel and pink-flowering Anna Nubia cultivars. Cut rose stems are bundled into bunches of 25 and typically packed 10 bunches per shipping box.
Issues of labor standards and use of various chemicals on rose crops in Ecuador raise concern about the production and sale of cut roses in the United States. According to American University, the desire of American consumers to have insect-free, perfect roses encourages the high use of pesticides in Ecuador's greenhouse plantations. Some of the potent chemicals used by and exposed to the female farm workers in Ecuador are restricted in the United States. Therefore, Ecuadorians endure pesticide poisoning from organophosphates and carbamates, two pesticide classes well known for their toxicity.
European nations, particularly The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, placed economic trade pressure on Ecuadorian rose farms to bide by more environmentally sound production practices. More organic controls, both for insect pest management and soil fertilization, are slowly being adopted. Recycling and better use of materials to decrease impact on nearby farmland and animal habitats in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador is also increasing. Lastly, the supply of cut flowers grown in Third World countries is out-pacing demand in the more affluent industrialized nations. This makes rose growing still unstable for nations like Ecuador to fully invest in for long-term sustainability.