Atlanta’s challenge to Miami as a center for the flower trade is being mounted by the GEM Group, composed of Cultiva Farms, a Colombian growers group; EcoFlora Corp., a locally based distributor and the Matts Group, which represents wholesalers throughout the U.S.

Members of the group met at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce in February to discuss prospective plans for increasing the flower trade from the Hartsfield Atlanta Perishables Complex.

Jorge Correa, president and CEO of EcoFlora, told GlobalFax during an interview last week at the center near the Hartsfield airport that his company is currently importing some 250 boxes of flowers a week accounting for annual revenues of approximately $2 million.

The flowers are coming from his native country of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and the state of California with many being brought to Atlanta from Miami by truck.

He estimated that the quantity of flowers could be increased to 15,000 boxes a week if direct flights between Colombia and Georgia were permitted.

Although the U.S. State Department is easing security precautions with Colombia, he said that there is no bilateral air treaty. Charter flights, however, are permitted, and GEM Group is in the process of arranging for such flights to Atlanta, he added.  Direct flights have been established with Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guatemala.

Mr. Correa also said that the growers’ cooperatives in Colombia favored dealing with EcoFlora because of personal ties and the company’s policy of offering set prices instead of letting prices be set by the auctioning process used in Miami.

“With fixed prices the growers know what to expect as do the retailers,” he said.  “It also will assure that the retailers will receive fresh product which is not always the case with the consignment method in Miami.”

Mr. Correa owned banana and coffee plantations in Colombia before moving to Atlanta in 1991.  He started EcoFlora in 1996 and participated in the creation of the GEM Group by bringing the Cultiva Farms growers there together with the Matts Group in New Jersey. Call (404) 766-0210.