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DUBAI: February 13, 2017. Valentine's Day is a calendar highlight for Emirates Sky Cargo in its annual uplift of 70,000 tonnes of flowers from growers in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and New Zealand to the Aalsmeer flower auction in the Netherlands.

According to Royal Flora Holland, last week saw 300 million flowers and 20 million plants valued at €140 million auctioned for Valentine's Day – almost double the normal weekly volume – and included 100 million roses, 120 million tulips and 23 million chrysanthemums.

The demand prompted Emirates to add four more B777 flights to its daily freighter service from Nairobi, and add more capacity to its thrice-weekly freighter link from Quito to Amsterdam.

EK Sky CargoThe flower business is worth US$600 million a year to the Kenyan economy where it employs 500,000 people, and US$360 million to Ecuador where over 100,000 people work in the floriculture sector.

Last year Emirates carried 34,000 tonnes of flowers from the two countries to the Netherlands with the largest demand coming from Germany, France and the UK. According to Royal Flora, consumers in the Netherlands and Germany prefer a mixed bouquet on Valentine's Day while the British and French are more likely to choose a bunch of roses.

This year UPS said it filled 64 freighters from Bogota and Quito to deliver 89 million flowers for February 14, most of which entered the U.S. via its Miami hub.

"The first five months of the year are the busiest for the flower industry," commented Andy Cornwell, regional manager, American Airlines Cargo Sales – Northern Europe. American began worldwide flower shipments for Valentine's Day at the beginning of February and said it carried an average 10-15 tons a week from Amsterdam.

According to the U.S. National Retail Federation (NRF), U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average US$136.57 this Valentine's Day, down from last year's record-high of US$146.84. Total spending is expected to reach US$18.2 billion, down from US$19.7 billion in 2016, which was also a record.

The latest NRF survey found U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of US$85.21 on their significant other or spouse, US$26.59 on other family members such as children or parents, US$6.56 on their children's classmates or teachers, US$6.51 on friends, US$4.27 on co-workers - and US$4.44 on their pets.

"Valentine's Day continues to be a popular gift-giving occasion even if consumers are being more frugal this year," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. "This is one day of the year when millions find a way to show their loved ones they care regardless of their budget."

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