Love and other drugs: Police alert to Valentine roses

Colombia is the world's second-biggest exporter of roses - but also has a well-known cocaine smuggling problem

Police across Europe are on the alert for roses containing more than simple amorous intentions this Valentine’s Day (today, February 14), as cocaine smugglers jump on the annual opportunity.

The problem originates largely in Colombia, which is the world’s second-biggest exporter of roses, but also known for its serious cocaine and drug smuggling problem.

The long, closed boxes of cut roses appear to offer a significant opportunity for drug dealers, who reportedly find them the ideal package to smuggle cocaine out of the country.

The parcels of flowers are often largely destined for the United States, but many also reportedly end up across European countries, including France, via the flower-trading hub of the Netherlands.

Police in their original country - Colombia - take great pains to check the roses before they end up on the cargo planes, and also use scanners and drug sniffer dogs as a means to rifle out any deeply-hidden packages.

And yet, law enforcement officers across the world are also asked to be on alert to any possible drug smuggling evidence that may have fallen through the net.

Colombia is the world’s second-biggest exporter of flowers (with an annual market worth $1bn / €81,000,000 and 200,000 jobs), just behind the Netherlands, and just ahead of Kenya, according to figures reported in newspaper Le Point.

The country offers perfect conditions for rose and other flower growing, with altitudes around the capital city of Bogotá climbing to above 2,500 metres, with an average temperature of 13°C. The nation’s rose bushes are pruned in November, to ensure that a bumper crop is ready just in time for February 14.

Valentine’s Day is the country’s most significant rose-exporting event, with over 15% of the country’s annual production yield - around 500 million roses - exported across the world in the two weeks ahead of the special date.

Colombia especially sought to promote its rose-growing prowess across Europe in 2009, when it launched its “Colombie, Terre de Fleurs (Colombia, Land of Flowers” campaign in Paris, giving away over 50,000 roses to Parisians on Valentine’s Day that year.

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