Growing Presence of E-Commerce Making Holidays Even Happier This Year

The explosive growth of e-commerce accelerated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is offering a more than a twinkle of hope for those of us in global supply chain management— especially as we go into the holiday season.

As consumers have grown accustomed to a digital-first shopping mindset, they plan to do more online shopping this holiday season than ever before, and that’s great news for the logistics industry.

To meet this challenge, producers of consumer goods worldwide and their requisite distribution providers are keeping pace, learning to adapt, and growing stronger. This silver lining to the pandemic is also being seen in the global shipment and handling of perishable foods and fresh flowers, Prime Group’s core business.

As we march into the holiday season, new data from PriceSpider on consumer purchasing behavior shows a 113% increase in year-over-year e-commerce sales through the first three quarters of 2020.

Factoring in the recent spikes in COVID-19 infections in tandem with flu season this winter, there will likely be even more stay-at-home orders as consumers continue to avoid brick-and-mortar retail entirely. So, happy holidays, New Year, and beyond…

Frenzy for Food

With grocery e-commerce now ranked among the fastest-growing product categories online, Prime Group companies are committed to providing the highest levels of service for our fresh food customers and forwarders around the world. And it’s not just retail grocery; online sales are also skyrocketing in the food and beverage segment, as they too have successfully adopted alternative methods to meet emerging customer preferences.

In response to the boom, one step we’ve taken is to increase cold storage capacity all across our global network of warehouses and handling facilities. The demand for coolers and freezers was already high prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now we are even better positioned to maintain the cold supply chain for our customers shipping temperature-sensitive fruit, vegetables, cheese, and fish.

We are also continually beefing up our technology and introducing new and more efficient systems by which we track and monitor our customers’ precious cargo to ensure fresh, safe, and on-time delivery worldwide.

Forget Me Not

‘Tis also the season for fresh flowers. Despite the major challenges imposed on this industry since the beginning of the pandemic, fresh-cut flower distribution, buttressed by e-commerce sales, is also taking off again. And just in time. With nearly 30 percent of adults in the U.S. purchasing flowers or plants to give to others on Christmas and Hanukkah, many will also click and buy blooms for themselves.

As you’ll recall, early in the pandemic, retailers struggled to keep floral shelves stocked, due to shortages in production and a lack of transport capacity. Since May, however, the industry has gradually gotten back on track. In fact, according to the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), after two months of near identical gains, floral sales gains actually exceeded fresh produce growth by about one percentage point in September.

Here again, the increased prevalence of e-commerce is feeding growth in this key market segment. Although the idea of simply clicking on a button to order fresh flowers is nothing new for this industry, now that consumers are wary of mingling with other shoppers, they appreciate the sterility offered by the flower e-commerce industry.

Life as We Knew It

The pandemic has reshaped life as we know it, and in the process, has accelerated consumer reliance on alternative means of accessing food and merchandise. So buckle up, this e-commerce boom is not going away any time soon.

For 20 years, our customers have depended on Prime Group to smooth out the bumps in the road by identifying ways to swiftly adapt and respond to sudden and sustained changes that affect the cold supply chain.

Just know we’re here with you for the entire ride.

Sizable Benefits of Shipping by Ocean Freight

Prime Group has long specialized in import logistics and export logistics support for produce and perishables goods such as seafood, flowers, and pharmaceuticals— specialty items that need to be shipped within a limited timeframe with maximum visibility.

But not all cargo is time sensitive and needs to reach the customer tomorrow. If a transit time of up to a month from point to point is acceptable, then sea freight is the best choice, and Prime Logistics is ready to deliver.

To learn more about Prime Logistics’ growing emphasis on ocean freight services, we sat down with Group Sales Manager Yulieth Onofre. Having joined the Miami-based sales team in March 2020, she has vast experience in the ocean cargo side of the business, and is busy working her contacts to expand the company’s reach in this important niche.

Q: Are customers pleased to know that the Prime Group companies have a sales division dedicated to ocean freight?

Yulieth: Prime Logistics is synonymous with air cargo transport, yes, but as a full-service provider of global shipping and handling, a growing number of our customers also rely on us to get their products where they need go when rapid delivery isn’t the top priority.

Q: Why do customers pick ocean freight?

Yulieth: When determining the best mode of transport, shippers, and forwarders not only consider how fast they need delivery, but they also factor in price. As you know, airfreight shipment is considerably more expensive than the same volume of sea freight cargo. So, essentially, it comes down to the nature of the freight, the time frame, and how much the shipper is willing and able to spend.

Q. Why join Prime Logistics right when the pandemic first hit?

Yulieth: Because most global logistics companies were designated “essential businesses,” such as those under the Prime Group umbrella, we continued operating for customers who needed us most, in addition to the new customers involved in the worldwide emergency response. As a result, air cargo space was at a premium, and a lot of resources were put toward meeting that demand.

But throughout this entire period, cargo—like computers and other high-demand non-perishable commodities—were still moving by ocean freight, especially food. People have got to eat! Vessels were still going to the same countries on the same itineraries carrying pineapples, avocados, mangos, and dry goods from companies such as a Goya and Iberia. In fact, we are now working to get more business from Iberia.

We are also working with customers who ship massive volumes of e-commerce goods like electronics, cosmetics, apparel, and home goods. Other good candidates to ship by sea freight are heavy equipment, cranes, and project cargoes. And, of course, we are also still moving medical equipment and supplies.

Q: What do you bring to the Prime Logistics team?

Yulieth: I’ve got 20 years of experience in ocean freight—more than I want to admit to! But as a result, I am able to serve as the perfect ally for our customers because I have a clear understanding of the business and the processes involved. I am always able to find the right balance between service, quality, cost components, reliability of the service provider, and timeframes involved.

To be effective, it’s important to know the market, as well as how to ensure the customer doesn’t incur unnecessary charges due to improper or untimely documentation. I optimize routing, match the customer with the best mode of shipment, and due to long-term professional relationships with service providers, I achieve the best freight rates.

Q: Are there any downsides to using ocean freight that you have to explain to customers?

Yulieth: There are so many benefits to ocean shipping, but yes, customers should know of the challenge in predicting and controlling the shipping timelines due to circumstances like congestion at sea ports, which can end up causing delays and additional costs. Natural disasters also can wreak havoc on shipping patterns and schedules.  But we are very good at preparing for, monitoring, and responding to those real threats.

Q: What’s the market for ocean freight looking like at present?

Yulieth: Typically, August and into the fall would be the annual peak season for ocean shipping. In recent years, a summertime peak period has emerged in advance back-to-school demand, but that didn’t happen due to the pandemic. So, now we are entering a peak period ahead of the holidays. Whatever happens, we need to be cognizant of the degree to which our customers are preparing right now, in October, for the shopping months of November and December. And with capacity back in the market, ocean freight rates have dropped a bit.

About Prime Logistics

One of the four main divisions of Prime Group Holdings, an international import-export logistics conglomerate founded in Ecuador in 2001, Prime Logistics streamlines, optimizes, and expedites freight to and from the U.S. for a wide range of major industries.

With offices in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Bogota, Quito, and Amsterdam, Prime Logistics capitalizes on its long-time relationships with the major air carriers and ocean lines, so it may offer competitive rates and ample space to destinations all around the world.

Prime Logistics Sales Manager Yulieth Onofre may be reached at salesmanager@primelogisticsgroup.com. For information, call 305-592-2044 or visit www.primelogisticsgroup.com.

Quito Operation Goes With the Flow for International Women’s Day

Although International Women’s Day was founded in the U.S., it has grown in significance in many other countries worldwide – and Prime Group’s operations in Quito continues to play a key role in keeping this annual tradition going strong.

With Ecuador serving as the primary source of flowers for this March 8 holiday each year, the efforts of both PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling in Quito and Amsterdam are crucial to advancing the company’s winning strategies at meeting the demand of its valued customers.

The Ecuadorian flower market supplies 72 countries around the world with floriculture products. But when it comes to Women’s Day, Europe is the number one market.

In order to ensure the fresh and timely delivery of fresh-cut flowers by March 8 – the day people recognize the most important women in their lives – the peak period for handling and shipping actually begins Feb. 16.

According to PrimeAir Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez, in terms of logistics support, every year is different – but this year, there were several unique aspects at play.

“It was a good season for us, no doubt. First, there was notable increase in air cargo capacity, meaning more service than normal was available out of Quito. But to this we must add factors that were outside the control of the industry that also affected the market and production of flowers.”

Suarez was primarily referring to last fall’s situation in Ecuador during which plantations were attacked by the protesters who barricade roads across the country in response to government policies to end diesel and gasoline subsidies. As a result, fuel prices to spiked across the country – as did tempers – which in turn prevented the normal development of the market.

“The protests did negatively affect overall production, because it delayed the cutting of the plants for the Valentine’s Day period. But apparently this helped to make production for Women’s Day season more stable,” he added.

Ultimately, PrimeAir was able to move 1.2 million kilos of flowers over the two week peak period, Feb. 16 to March 1. “Meeting this challenge took a lot of hard work, but for us, hard work is regular work – and it’s what prepares us to continually be attentive to providing the high levels of service and reliability that our customers demand.”

And so it goes working in a market as sensitive to outside pressures as the fresh-cut flowers.

About Women’s Day
For more than 100 years, International Women’s Day has been celebrated annually round the world on the 8th of March. A public holiday in many countries, it is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights that started back to 1910, when the day was first observed across America and Europe. Later, in 1946, feminists in Italy chose the mimosa flower as a symbol of strength, sensibility, and sensitivity for Women’s Day.

Today, although the mimosa flower maintains a special significance, it’s not the only flower given. Other flowers popular flowers to gift on International Women’s Day are lilies, alstroemerias, tulips, orchids, and roses.

In fact, flower shops across Russia sell upwards of 150,000 roses on March 8. And while pink, yellow, and white carnations are also hugely popular, light pink flowers are highly preferable in the U.K.

Elsewhere in Europe, such as in Romanian, purchasers want red and white flowers, and Greek purchasers mostly buy white flowers. Pastel colors are most preferable in the Western European countries while those in the Eastern European countries buy mostly vivid colored-flowers.

For information about PrimeAir, Prime Fresh Handling, and the entire family of Prime Group companies, visit www.primegroup.aero.

Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez may be reached in Quito via email at joseluis.suarez@primeair.aero, via cellphone at (593-9) 9 555-3195, or at (593-2) 281-8055, ext. 1006.

Prime Group’s Long Affair With Valentine’s Day

If you’re involved in any sector of the fresh-cut flower business and you’re reading this right now – get back to work!

Although we’re just moving out of the peak Valentine’s Day period, January 25 through February 7, there’s still a lot of work to be done. With International Women’s Day around the corner, the clock is ticking and there’s little time to rest.

But all kidding aside, I’m glad you’re here, because it gives me an opportunity to say thanks to all of our freight forwarders with whom we get to work so closely this time of year, and to our shippers and air carriers who so depend on us.

I’m also grateful for the passion for perfection exhibited by our team of dedicated hard-working employees who continue to do what they do best – especially over the past few weeks.

The monstrously high volumes we are presently handling is nearly unimaginable for the typical consumer. But we’re used to it. We’ve been working with perishables for so long, it’s become second nature to expect nothing less – and to provide nothing short of perfection.

So hats off to the dedicated folks in our two divisions that play such an integral role in preparing, shipping, and delivering such delicate and highly time-sensitive product as fresh-cut flowers – PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling. Our customers depend on you and you deliver every day.

This is also the time of year that my business partner Omar Zambrano and I pay homage to the company’s core business of providing top-line logistics support for the flower industry. Since day one, shipping roses and other fresh-cut flowers from South America to the U.S., and now Europe and beyond, has been our main focus.

In fact, flowers are the very reason Prime Group exists today – and continues to succeed. They are the seed that started it all, and that are allowing the company to thrive and strategically expand into other profitable business and product lines.

It’s a busy time. It’s an exciting time. And there’s always time to say thank you.

So thanks! And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Helping to Make Life’s Little Moments the Biggest

It goes without saying that Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year – a time to show that special someone just how much they mean to you. Most often, it comes down to a beautiful little moment on this one special day, perfectly accentuated with a breathtaking bouquet of long-stem roses.

And then it is done. Mission accomplished – for the thousands of people behind the scenes, as well, who have toiled for weeks to ensure this exact moment goes without a hitch. People like the team of professional employees at Prime Fresh Handling and PrimeAir.

For them, however, the biggest moment all year is a 17-day stretch of time, from Jan. 20 to Feb. 7. It’s that small window during which they tap into their years of expertise to expertly manage the myriad logistical complexities in transporting millions of pounds of Valentine’s Day flowers – from source country to the florist, just in time for Feb. 14.

Growing Demand
Valentine’s Day is big business. There’s no question about it. And the role these dedicated workers play is crucial to supporting the every-growing demand for fresh flowers. Valentine’s Day sales for 2020 is expected to reach $27.4 billion in the U.S. alone – an increase of $6.7 billion dollars in sales from 2019.

So how are the numbers stacking up for PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling? Business is on a continuous upward swing. In fact, according to Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez, one of the primary indicators is the volume of shipments coming out Bogota – the rose capital of the world and primary supplier of the U.S. Valentine’s Day market. In terms of tonnage, he says the Prime team fully expects to see an increase of 15 percent into Miami.

“On any given week, we operate about six cargo flights per week, but in order to meet the heightened demand, we’ve significantly boosted capacity leading up to Valentine’s Day. Over this peak 17-day period, we’ve been carrying literally triple the volume we normally handle, with about 48 total flights,” he added.

That amounts to three B747s flights per day carrying 100,000 kilos of crated flowers per flight – the equivalent of more than 100 tons!

“And that’s just what we’re handling. Considering that multiple other handlers and carriers are also putting in extra capacity to handle the demand over this same time period,” Suarez added, “that’s a lot of rose petals!

Projections out of Quito are equally impressive. According to the Expoflores, the National Association of Producers and Exporters of Flowers of Ecuador, air shipment of flowers during this same period, Jan. 20 – Feb. 8, were also projected to be up year-over-year, by 6 percent to the U.S.; 9 percent to Europe and Russia; and 20 percent to “other” locations.

On the Horizon
Flowers from Ecuador primarily go to supply Europe demand, with PrimeAir operating two extra flights to Amsterdam for the Valentine’s period and four extra flights in advance of International Women’s Day, coming up in March.

The peak period for Women’s Day is Feb. 16-28. After that, shippers get a break until Mother’s Day, May 12, which means everyone in the industry will be super busy again the last week of April through May 4.

Well in excess of 20 million flowers from Colombia and Ecuador are planned be cut, gathered, and shipped during the 2020 Valentine’s Day/Women’s Day season.

For information about PrimeAir, Prime Fresh Handling, and the entire family of Prime Group companies, visit www.primegroup.aero.

Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez may be reached in Quito via email at joseluis.suarez@primeair.aero, via cellphone at (593-9) 9 555-3195, or at (593-2) 281-8055, ext. 1006.

Prime Group team harvesting business at BOG show

Easily one of the best opportunities to meet the most important people in the floral industry is at the most important flower show in Colombia – Bogota’s Proflora.

As one of the biggest in the world, the show is mostly for flower growers and breeders to show off their wares, but myriad providers of services and products that support the core industry are also represented.

So naturally, Prime Group has been attending for years.

As a veteran of many flower expositions around the world, over and over CEO Roger Paredes says he comes to the same conclusion: “The floral business is as much about the flowers as it is about the people – perhaps even more so.”

For sure, there were hundreds of exhibits and sessions this year highlighting emerging trends and the latest and greatest flower varieties. But Paredes and his sales team, joined by Prime Group’s Chief Operating Officer Omar Zambrano are much too busy to take in any of the “local color,” so to speak. That’s because they are almost solely focused on meeting with new and existing customers.

According to Paredes, it’s all about maintaining and building relationships. “We focus on building new business, but we also taking full advantage of the opportunity to meet with the existing customers of PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling in particular, to continually reinforce those important relationships.”

PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling (PFH) are the primary divisions of Prime Group Holdings that support the fresh-cut flower business. PrimeAir serves as the general sales and service agent (GSSA) on the ground in Latin America for the biggest players in the air cargo industry – including Atlas Air, and Emirates SkyCargo. These carriers alone transport millions of kilos of flowers out of Bogota and Quito each year.

PFH serves as a strategic ally for its clients by handling the logistics end of the business – from start to finish – in order to achieve safe and fresh delivery of fresh flowers and perishable goods to their final destination. With strategic warehouses and handling facilities around the globe, PFH offers a complete menu of logistics services from cold storage and inventory services, to document processing and customs clearance.

“It was a great show,” Paredes reported. “We arrived with solid sales leads that would allow us to continue developing our portfolio of services, and were able to meet with a handful of new customers that we’d already started working with out of Bogota. At the end of the day, it’s always a good thing to meet clients face-to-face, after interacting for so long via just phone and email.”

Other meetings during the show, scheduled in advance of the event, were set aside for existing customers, he said, to thank them for their business and to check in to see if everything is copacetic.

“What we heard most, thankfully, were expressions of satisfaction with our service,” he added.

Mission accomplished.

For information, visit www.primegroup.aero. To contact Prime Group at its Miami world headquarters call 305-592-2044 or send an email at info@primegroup.aero.

A perfectly balanced bouquet of service

Last month, Prime Group got wind of an opportunity to potentially expand operations in the flower-rich region of South America. This would be good news, as it would allow Prime Group to not only grow its network as a dedicated provider of operations, sales, and ground handling services – but to continue boost its brand here.

“To be able to expand into, Medellin, Colombia, for example would be an exciting prospect indeed, said Roger Paredes, CEO of Prime Group. “From a logistics and transport standpoint, it would be ideal to be in the three top flower-producing origins, by adding a second Colombian city.”

The world buys about $1.35 billion worth of Colombian flowers every year, making the country the world’s second largest producer of cut flowers after The Netherlands.

However, launching operations in a new city is no small task. Work on such a project would involve extensive outreach and examination, from meeting with flower farms and grower’s associations, to checking and double-checking whether a new airport would even be suitable.

“Everything from determining whether we could store the volume of pallets necessary, to warehousing and cooler capacity would need to be looked at,” said Paredes.

But for Prime Group, opening the door to Medellin would allow the company to achieve a long-awaited goal of market expansion in Colombia. “We would love to cross Medellin off our bucket list,” he said.

Responsibilities here would mirror those in Bogota and Quito, in that Prime Group subsidiary PrimeAir would supervise all operations and customer service on the ground, Paredes added, “With an eye on safety and quality of service, we ensure everything goes smoothly, supervising all the vendors – and managing all aspects of cargo transport.”

Quito, Bogota, and Medellin would be a perfectly balanced bouquet of service.

International Women’s Day, a Prime Event Around the Globe

The 2019 peak season for the fresh-cut flower industry is in full bloom. Following another record-breaking year over Valentine’s Day, Prime Group companies are presently enjoying another surge in business in support of International Women’s Day.

Massive shipments of fresh-cut flowers of all varieties are now headed to markets all across the globe, with Bogota and Quito being at ground zero. In response, according to Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez, the PrimeAir team is working overtime to keep pace with the demand, while providing the highest quality customer service.

During this period, between Feb. 16 and 28, PrimeAir is busy supporting the Ecuadorian and Colombian markets with additional offers to its regular flights to Miami, Amsterdam, and other connections.

Likewise, Prime Fresh Handling is busy providing its special brand of logistics support on the ground, leading up to flight time and after. In taking care of things like such as cold storage warehousing and documents processing for time-sensitive perishables, they round off the company’s comprehensive range of service.

 

What’s Behind It All

Many observers attribute this year’s huge spike in demand around International Women’s Day (IWD) to an explosion of women’s activism throughout the world over the past year.

It’s fitting, then, that on March 8 the world pauses to celebrate all the achievements of women. And although the day has different meanings in different countries, it also can have deep personal meanings for each individual.

One thing remains constant – flowers – the universal symbol of IWD. People from all around the world celebrate by decorating with flower arrangements and delivering flowers to powerful women in their life.

The history of IWD stretches back more than 100 years, when the day was first observed across Europe and America. But it wasn’t until March 8, 1946, that feminists in Italy chose the mimosa flower as a symbol of strength, sensibility, and sensitivity.

Over the years, women and men alike have continued to give the gift of flowers to show their appreciation for the strong women in their lives. And although the mimosa continues to have a special significance, it’s not the only flower given out.

In Italy, yellow mimosas are popular. Russians give a variety of flowers, including red roses. And in Hanoi, it’s not just boyfriends and husbands sending flowers to the women in their lives, but also bosses and colleagues. IWD in many countries has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day and children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

All told, over Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day, 20 million flowers from Colombia and Ecuador will have been cut, gathered, and shipped with carriers that PrimeAir supports, says Suarez.

And apparently there’s no rest for the weary.

“After this current push, we get a short window of time to catch up on sleep and other crucial projects, before we get super busy again leading up to Mother’s Day, during the last week of April through May 4.”

 

About PrimeAir

Since 2001, PrimeAir has been providing GSSA services in Latin America to the biggest players in the air cargo industry – such as Atlas Air, Polar Air Cargo, and Emirates SkyCargo, to name a few. Closely supervising the action on the ground in Ecuador and Colombia is PrimeAir’s team, with decades of experience handling the perishables that make up a significant portion of the market.

Benefitting from being part of the Prime Group network of coordinated cargo and freight specialists around the world, PrimeAir is dedicated to making cargo services, operations, handling, and accounting easy and reliable for major international carriers.

 

About Prime Fresh Handling

Big or small – whether it be a box, a pallet, or a companywide logistics operation – Prime Fresh Handling (PFH) strives to be a strategic ally for its clients by taking care of all their logistics needs – from start to finish – in order to achieve safe and fresh delivery of perishable goods to their final destination.

At Prime Fresh Handling’s warehouses and handling facilities they offer a complete menu of logistics services from creating and packaging, and cold storage and inventory services, to document processing and customs clearance.

Based in Miami, PFH has offices in Bogota, Quito, Los Angeles, New York, and Amsterdam – all key gateways for the fresh-cut flower industry.

 

For information about PrimeAir, Prime Fresh Handling, and the entire family of Prime Group companies, visit www.primegroup.aero. 

Also, feel free to directly contact Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez in Quito via email at joseluis.suarez@primeair.aero, or call his cell at (593-9) 9 555-3195 or the main office at (593-2) 281-8055, ext. 1006.

A Prime Approach to Teamwork

Prime Group’s enchantment with flowers continues this month. As our intense focus on Valentine’s Day shifts to meeting the high demand for flowers for International Women’s Day, we stand ready!

Last time, I talked about how the transport of delicate roses from South America – the core of our business since 2001 – has helped to create a hard work ethic among the Prime Group team, one that is unmatched in the industry.

After all, if you can achieve great success in handling precious, time-sensitive flowers year after year, you can pretty much handle anything.

So when I say we have a long enchantment with flowers, I mean our entire team does – from our world headquarters staff in Doral, to our traffic agents in Bogota, to our ramp workers in Quito.

 

Back in the Day

It was on the ramp at Mariscal Sucre International Airport where I saw my first box of fresh-cut flowers, Ecuadorian roses, in fact. That was way back when I got my start in this business, as part of the ground-support crew working flights for Challenge Air Cargo. So I guess you could say, from the very beginning, I was pricked by the rose trade.

It was supposed to be a quick summer job, working as a warehouse guy, building pallets and loading trucks. I had never seen the airport from the air cargo side, let alone right out there next to a plane. It was so exciting. But all the while I’m thinking, “wow, I’m actually doing this!”

Now, all these years later, flowers and aircraft are still such a huge part of my life – a summer job that became a life-long career…

So, today, when I talk with my front-line employees, I get a sense that some of them don’t believe their CEO actually got his start in the industry doing exactly what they are doing.

But it’s all good. Because knowing exactly what it’s like to be in their shoes this busy time of year, working back-to-back flights, week after week, allows us to strike an immediate chord of camaraderie.

In fact, it’s a real sight to see when employees suddenly realize I am not just a corporate “suit,” but a seasoned “jumpsuit, too.”

What I also get to see and understand, first-hand, is that our team has amassed an amazing base of knowledge and expertise over time, to the point where they can expertly avert all kinds of issues on their own – very often before a problem even arises.

What this is about is good old solid teamwork. And it makes me proud to be part of this team.

At Prime Group, we’ve had a long affair with flowers, logistics support, and great customer service. I’m glad we’re working together – for you!

Wishing a wonderful and happy Women’s Day.

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.