A worker prepares roses for packing ahead of Valentine’s Day at a flower plantation in Tabio, Colombia, on Feb. 1. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)

Walker Grooms’s Feb. 22 letter, “Colombia’s exploited flower workers,” showed little knowledge about the cut flower industry in Colombia.

Colombian labor legislation is strict and enforced. All workers have benefits that many U.S. companies don’t offer, including paid medical leave, 18 weeks of maternity leave, paternity leave and universal health coverage. And minimum-wage laws are strictly enforced, including wage increases for overtime.

The United States is the largest buyer of flowers grown in Colombia, but our country also supplies products to 97 countries throughout Europe, Japan and Australia where strict phytosanitary, social and environmental standards must be met. Most of our farms are recognized by international environmental and social labels. Major U.S. retailers continuously inspect and audit their cut flower suppliers in Colombia to ensure that they meet their high social and environmental standards.

Contrary to many reports by nongovernmental organizations, the Colombian government prohibits the use and application of any chemicals and pesticides banned by the World Health Organization as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, allowing only those that meet all international norms and regulations.

There are many things we in the industry must continue to improve. However, we are proud of the social and environmental standards we’ve developed and implemented, and the tremendous progress made in support of our workers and the environment.

Augusto Solano, Bogota, Colombia

The writer is president of the
Association of Colombian Flower Exporters.