The world's top flower markets gear up for Valentine's Day. As Sonia Legg reports it's the industry's biggest day of the year.
It's the size of Monaco and sends flowers around the world. But FloraHolland doesn't own any of the flowers in its warehouses in the Dutch town of Aalsmeer - it simply manages their distribution. It's a big business - FloraHolland has 3,500 employees and an annual turnover of 4.5 billion euros. Every year it handles more than 12 billion flowers and plants. And company spokesman Lex van Horssen says it's not all about roses at Valentine's. (SOUNDBITE) (English) 'FLORAHOLLAND' FLOWER AUCTION SPOKESMAN, LEX VAN HORSSEN, SAYING: "The roses we sell these days, are about one hundred million pieces of roses, but we also sell about one hundred million pieces of tulips these days, very much in the red colour or any sort of red you can imagine." Most of the flowers come from Kenya, Ethiopia and Israel. And Germany, France and the UK, along with Italy and Russia are the biggest buyers. Luckily for FloraHolland the decision to ban imports of fruit and vegetables from Europe under Russian sanctions didn't include flowers or plants. (SOUNDBITE) (English) 'FLORAHOLLAND' FLOWER AUCTION SPOKESMAN, LEX VAN HORSSEN, SAYING: "But there is an effect, because the value of the rouble compared to the euro, that's really bad at this moment, so for the Russian consumer, flowers are more expensive than normal." Across the globe flower producers in South America are hard at it. Columbia is the world's second biggest flower exporter. Augusto Solano is President of Asocolflores (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) AUGUSTO SOLANO, PRESIDENT OF ASOCOLFLORES, SAYING: "Valentine's Day has always been the most important period for flower exportation to our main market, the United States. And flower growing has become the success story for free trade between us and them." Last year poor crops and recession hurt many of Columbia's flowers growers. But this year business is - blooming. At Elite Flowers a third of their annual exports take place in the run up to February 14th. And some firms make their entire year's profit from the occasion.