Romantics across the UK can rest assured that the UK’s supply of roses will be well stocked ahead of Valentine’s Day as Heathrow prepares for the annual spike in floral imports. An estimated 7,797,297 stems of fresh cut roses – around 570 tonnes – are expected to be imported to the UK via Heathrow this month. This is triple what is seen on an average month.
Red roses – the international symbol of love and passion – have been a Valentine’s staple since the 17th century. A single rose sent on Valentine’s day is traditionally seen as a declaration of true love, whilst a dozen roses is symbolic of complete love.
Though red roses are often seen a symbol of national pride in England, most of the flowers purchased for Valentine’s Day are likely to be from abroad. The vast majority (88%) of fresh cut flowers purchased in the UK actually hail from countries along the equator, where they can flower year-round. In 2015, Kenyan roses accounted for 60% of rose imports at Heathrow – with the remainder from Colombia, India, Tanzania, and Ecuador.
To avoid wilted flowers and disappointed valentines, rose distributors rely on the quick and reliable transport air freight provides. Nearly all – 93% – of fresh cut roses imported into the UK market travel via planes – and more than a third of these go through Heathrow.
“While Heathrow’s cargo team may be best known for their daily handling of smoked salmon and engine materials, Valentine’s Day brings out the crew’s sensitive side as the warehouses are infused with the scent of red roses. Passengers flying through Heathrow in February may be surprised at the amount of fresh flowers that are under their very seats courtesy of the airport’s direct connections to places like Kenya, Colombia, and India.”
As the country’s biggest port by value, Heathrow is by far the most common gateway for time-sensitive products being imported or exported. Over 30% of the UK’s exports by value go through Heathrow – more than the seaports in Southampton and Felixstowe combined. With expansion, Heathrow plans to double its current cargo capacity volume.