War on Drugs Killing U.S. Rose Growers

War on Drugs Killing U.S. Rose Growers
Posted by FoM on July 22, 2000 at 20:57:33 PT
Lisa Vorderbrueggen - Knight Ridder Newspapers
Glenn Sugihara is closing the greenhouse doors on his family's 87-year-old cut-rose business.His is the latest East Bay nursery to fall victim to the influx of cheap South American roses, an industry nurtured by the U.S. government to help Colombia grow flowers instead of producing cocaine and heroin.
Sugihara's rose bushes will be torn out and the greenhouses -- some built by Sugihara's grandfather in 1913 -- will be leased to Color Spot, the nation's largest bedding plant grower."Emotionally, it has been a hard decision," said Sugihara, a third-generation grower. "But we have a substantial investment in our greenhouses and with the current trend of more imported roses coming into the U.S., we feel we can do a lot better by leasing our property."America's war on drugs is not denting traffickers' profits, but rose growers say it is killing their industry.In the 1970s and '80s, Contra Costa growers sold 22 million cut blooms a year. In the last decade volume has dropped by half and the number of nurseries has dwindled from eight to two."Rose growers are an endangered species," said Contra Costa Agricultural Commissioner Edward Meyer. "It's sad because this comes at a time when as a county and as a nation, we are trying to preserve agriculture and our heritage."It is the same story across California, where the number of growers has plummeted to 50 from 500 just 20 years ago.California produces two-thirds of all domestic roses.South American growers pay workers a fraction of what U.S. laborers earn and are subject to far fewer -- if any -- environmental laws regulating chemical and pesticide use.The biggest blow, say rose growers, was the 1991 Andean Trade Preference Act, which gives Colombian cut-flower producers duty-free access to U.S. markets and saves growers from 5 percent to 7 percent on sales.The act is designed to give growers an economic incentive to help offset the lucrative illegal drug trade.It has helped Colombia's cut-flower industry. According to industry reports, six out of every 10 cut flowers sold in the United States are grown there. It generates $580 million a year in sales and provides 150,000 jobs.But Colombia's drug trade is flourishing, too.According to Brent Scowcroft, a national security adviser to former President Bush, annual Colombian cocaine production doubled between 1995 and 1999. And more than 90 percent of cocaine and 70 percent of the heroin consumed in the United States originated in Colombia.Back home, it is the domestic rose growers who are losing money.Not only are the overseas roses cheaper, but the public demands foreign-grown blooms because the climate and higher altitudes yield roses with longer stems and bigger heads.Richmond, Calif.Web Posted: July 22, 2000Copyright: Spokane netRelated Articles:California Growers Losing Flower War Pact Hurting California Flower Growers
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