PrimeAir set sights on Colombia, one of the hottest markets in South America

When people think of Colombia, what often comes to mind is coffee, cut flowers, and emeralds. Prime Group is working hard at adding its name to this list.

 

And with a continued expansion of the company’s presence here, they’re on track to do just that. The umbrella company and its multiple divisions are fast becoming known as Colombia’s top provider of air cargo logistics and services.

 

While the primary focus of Prime Group services here continues to be in support of air carriers and the shipment of perishables – the company is focused on expanding its presence in the highly lucrative Colombian market.

 

With about 25 employees now based in Bogota, they recently boosted staffing to accommodate a shift in focus from a purely PrimeAir office to a diversified Prime Group operation. They are also focused on best accommodating their new relationship with Emirates SkyCargo, the largest cargo airline worldwide in terms of international freight flown.

 

To get a good perspective on the Bogota operation, we recently spoke with Commercial Manager for Colombia José Luis Vargas.

 

Q: Tell us a about your Bogota operation?

JLV: PrimeAir is one of the companies that comprise the Prime Group, dedicated to representing cargo airlines in South America markets. In September, we celebrated our second year of direct operation here with six frequencies per week between Bogotá and Miami with Atlas Air, one of the most important and reliable cargo airlines in the world. Another important point is that we are listed as the second biggest carrier in the market from Colombia to worldwide destinations, according to IATA statistics.

 

  1. With the growing success of the BOG, are you outgrowing your office?

JLV: Well, yes, we’ve been on the move – but that’s certainly a good problem to have! We started with a small office of 500 ft2. in 2017, and quickly had to move into a new space double the size. But it didn’t end there – this year we expanded to an area of 1,700 ft2 for Administrative, Finance & Sales, and Marketing; and to a separate office of 800 ft2 for operations. All tolled, we house 25 employees at Terminal 1, Office 220, of El Dorado International Airport.

 

Q: What is the focus of service here?

JLV: As I mentioned, we are focus primarily on the PrimeAir services, representing airlines in the local market. But being part of the overall Prime Group allows us to provide our customers with a full range of solutions within the supply chain – not only as a carrier but also as a strategic partner with our own facilities in the U.S., Europe, South America, and our strong partnership with companies all over the world. We are also presently building momentum with several new offerings for which new people are being hired, for instance to man our new Vacuum Cooling service; and for our new service with Emirates Sky Cargo here.

 

  1. What is your strategy with the BOG operation?

JLV: When you start a project in a new market, you need to identify one purpose, and start by offering one specialized service. Once that’s established, you can move on. This is what we have done in Colombia. Such an approach helps us avoid improvisations and mistakes that could come at cost in the future. In Colombia we want to replicate what the Prime Group is doing in other parts of the world, and in a very deliberate way. Now we believe is the time for us to diversify our products in Colombia, which is why the company is making important investments in order to serve the market with better solutions and services. It’s an exciting time.

 

  1. What does the Colombian market look like?

JLV: We are seeing hefty increases in market volume. If you compare this year’s Valentines Day season with last (Jan-Feb 2018 v Jan-Feb 2017), we went from 35.336 tons to 40.238 tons moved during that period, according to Asocolflores official report. This represents an increase of 13.9 percent of the volume transported by air this year. To us, this is a positive sign for the upcoming years. Obviously there are some challenges in the sector that must be sorted out and involves different actors (government, flower association, carriers, freight forwarders), but in general we are very optimistic about the future of the economy and the country.

 

Q: Who are your biggest customers?

JLV: In the Colombian market, global agents such as Kuehne & Nagel and Panalpina have a strong presence and consequently are very important partners of ours in the country. But local agents also play a very big role, companies like Logiztik Alliance, Cargex, Masterfreight International, and Cargomaster among others. In fact, most of them are becoming regional partners due to their presence in other countries of the region.

 

Q: What are the primary products of the region?

JLV: The main products we transport by air are flowers, fruit, and fish – all of which are very sensitive commodities requiring special handling processes – which is exactly what we specialize in. Although these products represent more than 90 percent of our total volume, we also transport other many other items that are, frankly, no less difficult to handle, such as aircraft engines, cars, motorcycles, tools and machines for the oil industry, live animals, and more.

 

Q: How do you store, ship, and transport the products?

JLV: In-country shipments are delivered directly by the farms themselves to the airline facilities at the airport. Here, all shipments must pass through a rigorous security process, where all single boxes are scanned and measured – a process that is professionally and competently supervised. After all, when you talk about air transportation, security is a top priority. Then, all shipments pass into to the cool facilities where they are palletized according to the configuration of the aircraft. One hour before each aircraft arrives in Bogotá, the pallets must be ready and waiting on the ramp. The transit time of the aircraft cannot exceed 1.5 hours, before it is loaded up with the outbound cargo. The aircraft has its own cool system that guarantees that the cool chain will never be interrupted. The dynamism and exigency of this business make all your days different.

 

Q: Tell me about the new agreement with Emirates.

JLV: PrimeAir has a long-time relationship with Emirates. In Ecuador, EK operates four direct flights per week from Quito to Amsterdam, under PrimeAir representation. In that sense, the cooperation between both companies is very well established. Now, Colombia is an interesting market due to its volume of flowers being exported not only to the U.S., which has been the country’s traditional main partner, but also to Europe, the Middle East, Far East, and Oceania – markets that are served by Emirates with its immense network around the world. We are starting a four-day a week operation to Dubai and beyond, via Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) in cooperation with Avianca Airlines as a feeder for the transit from BOG to FLL. This is a great opportunity for the Colombian market to get into Dubai in just one day using the direct AWB of Emirates, which makes the transit times in FLL fast and easy.

 

  1. With the Quito Flower Show season behind us, are there other trade shows that are of equal importance to attend?

JLV: Yes, we always attend the Quito and Bogotá flowers shows, and Air Cargo Americas in Miami. This year we also attended the Amsterdam, Moscow, Guangzhou, and Tokyo flowers shows. And we already have a full agenda for the next year, including perhaps attending the Intermodal show in Sao Paulo in 2019.

 

  1. What do you think of the city of Bogota?

JLV: Bogotá is a main capital known for a wide range of attractive cultural and culinary offerings. With a population of almost nine million people, it is an amazing location to do business, as it is the base hub for most of the country’s biggest and most important companies. Bogota also benefits due to its location in the heart of Cundinamarca, the region where 70 percent of the total production of flowers is generated.

 

  1. Are you happy with your assignment in the Prime Group world?

JLV: Yes, I am quite happy indeed. Let me tell you a quick story: I had been in the sector for seven years, when I left Lufthansa Cargo to join with Prime Group in 2014. This was a new project and, as I mentioned, we started with a very small office. One of the reasons for going with Prime Group was that the company already had an impressive presence and was well recognized in other markets at that time – so in that sense I knew I was joining a serious group. But the main driver was the vision and sense of purpose of the company that made me believe in this project. Now, five years later, I can tell you it was the right decision and I feel very proud and honored to be part of this company and in the role I play.

 

For information, contact Commercial Manager José Luis Vargas via email at joseluis.vargas@primeair.aero or by calling 305-735-3570. Also visit www.primeair.aero.

Quito Flower Shows are Where Business and Beauty Merge

By Roger Paredes, CEO-Prime Group.                           

This is truly one of my favorite times of year – flower show season in Quito. Not only does it mean I get to travel back to my homeland of Ecuador, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to catch up with old friends and associates in the business, while forging new relationships.

This year is extra special because we get an extra helping of networking. That’s due to the fact that there are two flower shows happening simultaneously, Sept. 19-21. Granted, they are taking place at different venues, but in the same city of Quito – so there is little chance of missing you.

On behalf of my business partner Omar Zambrano and the entire Prime Group team, I invite you to visit us at both shows, Agriflor and Expo Flor Ecuador, each showcasing Ecuador’s cut-flower industry to the international flower buyers community.

You will find us at the two booths Prime Group is hosting at each event, representing our air-cargo partners Atlas Air and Emirates Sky Cargo. The international flower trade exhibitions Expo Flor Ecuador-2018 is at the new Metropolitan Convention Center of Quito; and Agriflor-2018 is at the Centro de Exposiciones of Quito.

These flower trade fairs are the most important annual events for Ecuador – and Prime Group is so pleased to play a part. While the biggest group of exhibitors consists of flower growers from Ecuador, literally hundreds of other industry-related companies will also participate.

Among the people coming in from all over the world are service providers connected to the flower industry, such as freight forwarders and airlines – which is why we have such as big a presence here.

I have been going to flower shows in Ecuador since even before Prime Group’s founding in 2001, so I know such events are an excellent way for us to provide personalized benefits to our customers, strengthen our relationship with them, and increase company visibility.

This year we will be on the floor marketing the services of Prime Group that are directly connected to flowers, especially Prime Fresh Handling.

And that’s why we are planning to have such a big presence here again this year. Joining Prime Group’s executive leadership will be our local staff in Quito plus a number of our people from Bogota, and key members of our sales team.

At the end of the day, the centerpiece of everything is flowers, flowers, flowers – especially Ecuadorean roses, which are the best in the world. No doubt, you will be left in awe by the enormous arrangements that will be on display, as the growers show off their best products, their best colors, and the absolute best quality.

Quito is the a place to be and to be seen this time of year – upon a backdrop of one of the most amazingly beautiful shows in the world. I look forward to seeing you there!

A Tale of Fish and Flowers

Two things that don’t normally have a lot in common are fish and flowers — especially when you consider that TV commercials for air fresheners use these exact same aromas in their commercials.

However, these two wildly popular perishables at seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum get similarly special treatment by Prime Fresh Handling. As soon as fresh tuna and orchid leis shipments arrive from overseas at Los Angeles International Airport, they are whisked off to be skillfully prepared for market by PFH – one of the fast-growing companies under the Prime Group umbrella.

The orchid leis that are shipped here from Thailand arrive pre-strung into the iconic graduation garb that you see draped on high-school and college graduates throughout the month of June. Once PFH takes delivery on behalf of their client, the leis are then repacked into a clear plastic, clamshell packaging. At this point in the process, the ready-for-retail leis are transported from PFH’s LAX facility directly straight to grocery stores, florists, and the eventual grateful grads.

“Clearly there is a big demand for orchids in June because of all the student graduations,” said PFH Commercial Manager Cristina Moscoso. “They have all started wearing leis at their graduation parties that are often handed out after commencement.” With more than 15 years in the air cargo industry, Moscoso is at the helm of the Los Angeles operation.

A Tale of Tuna
Incoming tuna at Prime Fresh Handling goes through a much more rigorous process than that of the leis. These fresh – and in most cases – enourmous fish are shipped to the PFH Los Angeles location from countries all across the world, from Indonesia to Spain.

Inside the brand new 52,000-square-foot-facility, the tuna is briefly stored inside top-of-the-line coolers that PFH only recently installed. From here, they are iced and graded for quality using a sashibo, a tool for getting a sample of the meat from the base of the tail. The meat is graded into three categories based on color and opacity of the sample then sold and shipped across the U.S.

PFH’s new facility at LAX is a strategic location on the West Coast with over 21,000-square-feet of cooler and freezer space to use for product staging and storage. Staffed by a highly committed and skillfully trained team, PFH specialists work efficiently to make sure product keeps moving, and customers remain satisfied.

For more information visit primefresh.eu or email Commercial Manager Cristina Moscoso at Cristina.Moscoso@primeair.aero.

Mother’s Day Every Day?

Some might say that every day is Mother’s Day, considering the everyday sacrifices women make for their families. But if that were the case, those of us in the business of transporting flowers would be very busy indeed.

The modern Mother’s Day that originated in the U.S. in the early 20th century initially involved wearing a white carnation for mom every year on the second Sunday of May. Since then, flowers have been inextricably linked to this holiday.

Motherhood is celebrated in many other parts of the world as well. Whether as International Women’s Day in Russia during the month of March, or coming up in late May as Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom, mother is almost universally honored with fresh cut flowers – or in the case of France, with flower-shaped cakes, too!

The worldwide demand for flowers is also driven by the fact that 20 percent of husbands give their wives flowers on Mother’s Day. It’s no wonder that Mother’s Day has blossomed into a major holiday that boasts a 1.9 billion a year flower expenditure.

A Budding Business

PrimeAir, a division of the Prime Group, is at the forefront of this logistics sector, ensuring that the most fresh and beautiful floral bouquets get into in the arms of loving mothers on their special day – and every day in between.

And although the peak Mother’s Day season just passed, PrimeAir continues to work with key customers such as Atlas Air, Emirates Sky Cargo, and about 750 flower importers and distributors in providing that important link between the source countries and the market.

Says Prime Group President Roger Paredes, “It is evident that the 2018 Mother’s Day season was highly successful, with record breaking volumes coming out of South America, especially Bogota and Quito.”

While the U.K. has yet to celebrate its annual Mother Day, the peak flower-shipping season is typically from the end of April to the first days of May.

Back in the Day

PrimeAir has a long history in the shipment of flowers. Paredes launched the company in 2001 in Ecuador representing several air cargo carriers involved in the transport of flowers from Quito.

“The expertise we gained in those early days, and have built upon, allows us to retain long-term customers while at the same time generate new business among companies. Especially those looking for the best in customer service, know-how, and logistical management of getting flowers to Miami and beyond.”

Flowers were always very important to PrimeAir. “Initially we supported operations between Quito and Miami only, but the exports just kept growing, so we soon entered the Amsterdam market,” says Paredes.

“As business continued to grow, we did too, by moving into Colombia, New York, and Los Angeles – pretty much following the flowers all over the world.”

Prime Air also services suppliers of other perishables product lines including as fresh produce and fish, but has also evolved into the shipment of a wide range of dry cargo, up to an including aircraft engines and heavy machinery.