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Tracking love across the globe: A complex business

By Isa Soares, CNN
updated 2:52 PM EST, Thu February 14, 2013
  • The roses come directly from Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador and are picked up by a freight
  • After a 10 hour flight, they land at Frankfurt and here, it's all about speed and punctuality.
  • Lufthansa Cargo is one of the many carriers that help to deliver romance

Editor's note: Isa Soares is a reporter with Marketplace Europe. Follow her on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Every year, come Valentine's Day, I cringe at the thought of walking down the street with red roses, balloons and chocolates.

It's not that I don't like all of the above, I simply dislike the commercialization of love.

But whether you're shy or not about proclaiming your love, the reality is that this day is big business.

Lufthansa Cargo is one of the many carriers that help to deliver romance.

Every year it transports 20,000 tons of flowers and plants. In the days leading up to Valentine's Day, it will fly one thousand tons of roses. Ensuring they reach their final destination in full bloom is a complex logistical chain that begins with the growers.

The roses come directly from Kenya, Colombia and Ecuador. They are picked up locally by the freighter and while they vary in shape and quality, they all have to meet tough quality standards and strict European Union regulations.

This begins the moment they board the plane. Here, the captain has to shower them with love, attention and a temperature in the range of four and eight degrees.

Lufthansa's cargo pilot, Robert Nilles, tells me this is important "because roses are easily perishable goods, it's very important not to disrupt the code chain."

After a 10 hour flight, they land at Frankfurt and here, it's all about speed and punctuality. With cargo doors open and temperatures below zero, the roses need to be moved quickly.

In less than an hour, all 65 tons of roses are moved from the freighter to the perishable center where their temperature is taken once again.

Hans-Jurgen Hess is responsible for the next step. As a representative of the German government, it's his responsibility to check all food and plant shipments that come through Frankfurt.

But his task is bigger than this: He's a border inspector for the whole of the EU and he must make sure that everything that leaves Frankfurt is clean of any diseases.

Picking up a pink bunch of roses, Hess shows me he'll be looking at leaves and stems for plant rust, mildew, whitefly and many more bugs. He'll examine one batch from each supplier and if clear, he'll sign off and they're good for delivery.

So next time you buy or receive a bunch of roses, remember the precision of this logistical chain. It may have taken you five minutes to buy them, but it takes six hours to approve them.

Now that's commercial love.

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