Valentine's Day flower prices affected by international markets and weather

As Valentine's Day draws near, florists have stocked their shops with the flowers and bouquets that will commemorate the holiday for many couples. While purchasing that floral token of affection is as easy as walking into your local flower shop, local florists explain it is a more complicated task than one might think in their preparing for the holiday and getting those flowers to you. As local florists explained the flowers gifted this Valentine's Day are almost exclusively imported from countries like Canada and Colombia or shipped in from states like California. According to Agriculture Canada, 98 percent of the flowers exported from Ontario and British Columbia go to the United States. But Canadian flower growers claim adverse effects to their industry as a result of the Colombia-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) implemented in 2010. As a result, Canadian growers have raised prices and Colombia has emerged as the primary supplier of cut flowers in America. In addition, the 1991 Andean Trade Preference Act provided countries like Colombia and Ecuador duty-free access to the U.S. flower market in an attempt to encourage production of "legal" crops in that region. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, foreign imports account for nearly 90 percent of flowers purchased in America and while California is still the top cut flower producer in the United States, it is struggling to compete with foreign importers able to offer them at cheaper rates. In addition to fluctuations in the floriculture market, flower prices in the U.S. reflect a number of factors involved in their production and transportation, including severe weather in producing regions as well as rising gas prices. "If they have a storm down in Colombia, our prices are going to go up...They [flower prices] will be higher," said Mary Ann Mohr, owner of Mary Ann's Flower Shop in St. Marys. Elaine Friedl, owner of Goetz's Flowers in St. Marys, said that there have been shortages of a variety of floral species this year, including carnations, due to extreme winter weather in parts of Canada. "There's been a shortage of carnations, believe it or not. There's definitely a shortage for Valentine's Day too; if we didn't get our order in a month ago there's (a) slim to none chance that we'll get anything now." Friedl said.