Peak flower season brings out the best in us

Valentine’s Day and International Women’s Day are back-to-back events that account for the shipment of massive volumes of fresh-but flowers from Colombia and Ecuador. Let’s find out how PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling make it through this highly intense period.

We caught up with Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez to share with us what the company does in South America to keep pace with the demand, while providing the highest quality customer service during the peak season for the flower industry.

 

Q. How do PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling support the flower industry during this peak time?

Answer: In the high seasons, PrimeAir has always been characterized by supporting the Ecuadorian and Colombian markets with additional offers to its regular flights to Miami, Amsterdam, and other connections – this year will certainly be no exception. Now, we have Prime Fresh Handling that makes our overall service integral, because we not only offer departures from Bogota or Quito but we also provide support at the destination, making our service even more attractive.

 

Q. What is the peak period for the transport of flowers from South America?

Answer: Typically, the Valentine’s Day period ends around Feb. 8 at then we move into the Women’s Day peak, Feb. 16-28. After that, we get a break until Mother’s Day, May 12, which means we are super busy again the last week of April through May 4.

Between the Valentine’s and Women’s Day back-to-back period, we have basically one week to recover, get some sleep, and get busy again. But not everything is a dream, as we have our regular flights that need to be attended to. In a new twist, over the past couple years, customers have started moving their shipments to go out just prior to the peak periods in order to get better flower prices.

 

Q. What is the volume of shipments over this peak period?

Answer: It’s a moving target, but I would say that around 20 million flowers from Colombia and Ecuador are planned be cut, gathered, and shipped with us during the Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day season.

 

Q. What’s the journey a flower makes from field to florists?

Answer: The clock starts ticking with the snip of a stem at the farm. To get flowers to their destination, the supply flow then starts as flowers are placed immediately in a refrigerated truck for transport to a cool warehouse at the airport. Here, they go through a process we call “pre-cooling,” in which any warm air that might be trapped in the box is vacuumed out. After that important step, the blossoms travel through the center of the U.S. flower distribution system: Miami International Airport, while others head off to Amsterdam. Both airports see huge spikes in volume between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Once there, they are inspected to ensure the flora is free from harmful pests and diseases. This process can take up to four hours. But after they get a green light, they get another pre-cooling and are release to a local warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped off to an international location or placed on refrigerated trucks for domestic distribution. Retailers are the final link in the cut-flowers supply chain before the flower reach your sweetheart and/or loving mother’s hands.

 

Q. Other than managing air transport of flowers, do you provide other logistics services for the industry, such as shipping of bulbs or flower seeds?

Answer: Yes, we ship bulbs and seeds – and because they too are delicate perishables, they need a temperature regime and cooling systems when being transported.

 

Q. Do fresh flowers need to be packed in specific ways? Vertically or horizontally, with or without water?

Answer: It depends on the type of flower that is being transported. There are some varieties that are shipped with water like the gladiolus that must be transported vertically and with a support of water. In the case of regular fresh-cut flowers such as gypsophila, roses, etc., they are transported in corrugated cartons with enough ventilation so that moisture can get out and, of course, so the flowers can breathe and maintain their freshness.

 

Q.Who are your main customers requiring the use of air transportation for quick shipments of fresh flowers.

Answer: Freight forwarders who represent growers are the customers who need to access professional air transport services for highly sensitive perishable fresh flowers – so that they reach their destination looking appealing and fresh.

 

Q. Why is maintaining the cold chain such an important aspect of this process?

Answer: This process, known as cold chain shipping, comes into play in order to allow flowers to make it from the field to the customer at lightning speed. Without proper packaging and express shipping, flower life is cut significantly shorter. Appropriate cooling systems and temperature regime are needed to ensure that the flowers remain in good condition. Of course, retailers want to receive cut flowers as soon as possible after harvest to lengthen vase life, achieve customer satisfaction, and spur repeat sales. So, temperature-controlled transportation, handling, and storage, makes longer supply chains possible, but the time limit still maxes out at about 12 days.

 

Q. Describe the logistics and sales teams as well as the facilities in both BOG and UIO.

Answer: Each team consists of experienced professionals, highly specialized in their specific function, starting with tailor-made quotes, going through reservations consistent with the clients’ needs, and finally maintaining high-quality transport. All this is based on our premise: to always provide excellent customer service. In Bogota we have our own office located in the Cargo Terminal of the El Dorado International Airport; and in Quito, the offices in the International Cargo Terminal of the Mariscal Sucre Airport. The PrimeAir family continues growing every year and this makes me proud to be part of a team that is determined to remain at the forefront of the logistics business, which is an increasingly challenging task in this highly competitive market.

 

Q. What is your background with the company and prior to joining the Prime Group?

Answer: I am a Commercial Engineer with separate specializations in Business Administration, Marketing, and Foreign Trade – this last one sparked my interest in airside operations. My career in the logistics area began in 2006 with Lufthansa Cargo, before passing through LAN Cargo in 2015. My Master’s Degree from the Tecnológico de Monterrey encouraged me to grow even more. Since 2016, I have had the opportunity to be in charge of the commercial operations of PrimeAir’s South American region. With a specialty in the movement of perishable cargo such as flowers and fruits. My experience also extends to handling very challenging cargo items such as oversized, high-valued, high-risk material.

 

Contact Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez:

E-mail:     joseluis.suarez@primeair.aero

Mobile:     (593-9) 9 555-3195
Office:       (593-2) 281-8055 Ext. 1006
Address:   Terminal Internacional de Carga, Mezzanine, Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Sucre Quito, Ecuador

Emirates SkyCargo celebrates five years in Quito

Last month, when Emirates SkyCargo celebrated five years of “uplifting roses from Ecuador,” the news was picked up in Air Cargo World, Air Cargo Week, and other major trade journals across the globe. After all, it’s big news.

As its GSSA in Colombia and Ecuador, PrimeAir and parent company Prime Group wish to congratulate the carrier on its great success here.

After all, PrimeAir and Emirates SkyCargo have been working closely together since Emirates first entered the market in 2013 – in Quito. And just this past summer, the partnership was significantly enhanced as the Dubai-based carrier selected PrimeAir to serve as GSSA for Emirates SkyCargo’s operation in Colombia, too.

Says Prime Group CEO Roger Paredes, “They were obviously very pleased with the high caliber service we provide – and we are so proud to be part of their continued success on the South American continent.”

PrimeAir provides in-country sales, marketing, and accounting for Emirates SkyCargo, in addition to airport services such as warehouse supervision, and ULD control.

Acknowledging that the agreement with Emirates SkyCargo is a feather in the company’s cap, Prime Group is pleased to share the good news here with our readers, on behalf of one of our most honored customers and partners, Emirates SkyCargo.

Uplifting roses with four weekly freighters in Ecuador

Roses are one of the most popular export commodities from Ecuador and are renowned for their vibrant color and long shelf life. Over the last five years Emirates SkyCargo has been facilitating exports of Ecuadorian roses as well as other flowers and perishables through its freighter operations to Quito.

Emirates SkyCargo commenced its freighter operations to the Ecuadorian capital in December 2013 with a once a week service. However, due to growth in demand and trade flows from Ecuador, the air cargo carrier increased the frequency of its freighter flights. Currently, Emirates SkyCargo’s Boeing 777 freighter aircraft uplift cargo four times a week from Quito.

Since December 2013, Emirates SkyCargo has helped transport over 50,000 tonnes of Ecuadorian exports from Quito. Fresh flowers including roses form the bulk of export commodities transported on the freighters. In 2017 alone, close to 12,500 tonnes of fresh flowers were flown from Quito to other parts of Emirates’ network in Europe, Middle East, and Asia.

High season for flower exports lasts between August and February but the peak demand for roses occurs in late January and early February in the run up to Valentine’s Day, which requires additional freighter capacity to be deployed to meet demand.

More recently, Emirates SkyCargo has also helped promote the growth of exports of perishables such as mangoes and baby bananas from Ecuador to markets such as Germany, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Singapore. With its global network of over 155 destinations Emirates SkyCargo facilitates the development of new export opportunities and makes an important contribution to the local economy in Ecuador where more than 100,000 people are dependent on the floriculture sector.

With Emirates Fresh, the carrier’s three-tiered suite of specialized solutions, flowers and other perishables from Ecuador retain their freshness and longevity during their journey. Emirates SkyCargo’s modern fleet of Boeing 777 freighters have controlled temperature zones set up inside the aircraft ensuring that perishable shipments travel at the right temperature.

Emirates SkyCargo, the freight division of Emirates, is the largest international airline cargo operator in the world. With an unrivalled route network, the carrier connects cargo customers to over 160 cities across six continents and operates in many of the world’s fastest developing markets.

While Emirates SkyCargo offers cargo capacity on its entire fleet, it’s dedicated fleet of freighters includes 13 Boeing 777-Fs and one Boeing 747-F. The carrier operates state-of-the-art cargo facilities at its dual hub locations in Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC).

Prime Group at Important Crossroads

Miami-based Prime Group finds itself at an exciting crossroads.

The idea that founders Roger Paredes and Omar Zambrano had starting 17 years ago, to provide well-managed solutions in service to the air cargo business, continues to evolve – with a renewed energy and spirit.

Upon completion of an intensive seven-month review and realignment of internal operations, Prime Group is now ready to fly high with a greater sense of agility and efficiency that will help it continue to succeed in the competitive air cargo business.

Known for offering exceptional international cargo and logistics products and services, Prime Group is the umbrella company for several divisions that include PrimeAir, Prime Air & Ocean Cargo, Prime Fresh Products, and Prime Fresh Handling.

“Most people will agree that the modern economy is fast and dynamic, and is in a constant state of change,” said CEO Roger Paredes, which is why he believes the greatest challenge facing the industry today is to be able to quickly respond to market change.

“It was becoming more and more evident that, as a company, we had arrived at a point where we had to step up to make strategic and operational changes that will guide us to market leadership,” he added.

So late last year, Prime Group made the decision to invest in its future by selecting London Consulting Group of Monterrey, Mexico. Founded in 1991, and currently operating throughout the America’s and Europe, London Consulting was hired to “free up Prime Group’s potential,” by developing and implementing through the company’s management team major changes and solutions – primarily in the operational areas of the company.

By working with London, Prime Group is ensuring long-term fitness so that it may continue to evolve as a leader in the air cargo and logistics business long into the future.

“They spent seven intensive months onsite with us, reviewing our operations from head to toe,” Paredes continued. “As a result, we are putting into place processes and indicators that give us insights into the warehousing and commercial aspects of our operation all across our system, from Bogota to Los Angeles, to Amsterdam.

With new measurement tools in place, the company is gaining a better perspective – and controls – on everything from yield analysis and aircraft load factors, to efficiently building up jet pallets, and optimization of personnel. They are now able to determine whether work that’s being performed in one particular job group is happening at peak levels of productivity, and then reduce inefficient activities that negatively impact the cost of operations.

The management team also has been coached in prospecting new customers and how to better service existing customers with automated tools that indicate short- and long-term buying trends.

“We are now able to better customize our service because we have better insights into our customer needs,” said Paredes. The side benefit here, internally, is that management may now spend less time with day-to-day tasks, and more time focusing on the strategic side of the business.

“It is of great benefit for an airline to work with a company like ours that has made the investment to put in place such sophisticated tools that allow us discuss trends and to make customized data-based decisions – sometimes with just one click,” he said.

“All of this helps us manage the customer relationships in a much better way,”

So the big question is, was the investment worth it?

“By applying London Group’s methodology, they were able to develop and implement the solutions we needed to achieve greater profitability,” says Paredes. “They promised a sizeable return on investment and we are pleased to report we are seeing permanent results that will allow us to take the Prime Group companies to the next level.