Rough Week of Winter Weather May Delay Popular Valentine's Day Deliveries

By Mark Leberfinger, Staff Writer
February 14, 2014; 3:50 AM ET
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Chocolates and flowers will continue to be popular choices for this Valentine's Day.

Many men and women, including those who wait until the absolute last minute, will make their yearly trek to find the right gifts to show their affection for their sweethearts.

However, recent rounds of heavy winter snow and ice across much of the East this week may make it difficult for scheduled deliveries to arrive on time.

Despite drought conditions in the U.S. and in Africa, chocolate and flowers will be plentiful this year.

The average world price of cocoa beans has jumped 30 percent since March 2013, according to data from the International Cocoa Organization. As of January 2014, the average price was $2,819.43 a ton.

In this photo taken Tuesday, May 31, 2011, farmer Issiaka Ouedraogo arranges cocoa beans, laid out to dry on reed mats, on a cocoa farm outside the village of Fangolo, near Duekoue, Ivory Coast. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The National Confectioners Association did a Valentine's Day Trends survey and found that total U.S. confectionary sales for Valentine's Day 2014 are expected to be about $1.06 billion, a 1.9 percent increase from 2013. Chocolate makes up about 75 percent of the total.

The increase is expected to be the result of both more purchases and higher prices, association spokeswoman Susan Smith said.

"In the past, cocoa prices as well as supply have fluctuated; therefore, the market and the industry know how to adjust," she said. "For instance, companies may purchase large amounts of cocoa in anticipation of supply shortages. Cocoa trees are a delicate orchard crop, dependent on weather, the health of the cocoa tree and even internal country stability and capacity. If there is a several-year trend involving inadequate supply, the industry will be affected."

Most of the world's cocoa comes from West Africa, where the region is now in its dry season. Industry analysts said poor weather conditions contributed to a less-than-expected crop. The area had below-normal precipitation at the same time there was a dearth of tropical activity in the Atlantic tropical season.

Tropical systems typically come off the western coast of Africa, Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert said.

"The systems weren't as vigorous, and the lack of systems during the Atlantic system kept the region from getting its normal precipitation," Reppert said.

The NCA survey showed that 22 percent of Americans say they will buy more of what is on sale, while another 16 percent said they are going for more indulgence or special holiday chocolates, Smith said.

"We also see a trend toward 'healthier' indulgences or dark chocolate or chocolate with inclusions such as fruits and nuts," she said. "Between 2012 and 2013, global product launches featuring cocoa/chocolate combined with active health messages increased 42 percent."

Valentine 's Day is also the number-one holiday for florists.

The Society of American Florists doesn't conduct a consumer survey prior to the holiday, but spokeswoman Jennifer Sparks cited a National Retail Federation survey that found 37 percent of consumers plan to give flowers this Valentine's Day.

Paul Berg, visiting from Madison, Wis., carefully picks out tulips for his sweetheart on the busiest flower sales day of the year at the Pike Place Market, Valentine's Day, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in Seattle.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Last year, 63 percent bought red roses. It was estimated that 233 million roses were produced for Valentine's Day 2013, Sparks said.

Respondents could give multiple answers and 41 percent said they purchased mixed flowers for the day.

"The numbers fluctuate very much," she said. "Roses are always the number-one seller, followed by mixed flowers. The great thing about flowers is they come in all shapes and sizes, so there is something for everyone."

The drought in California hasn't affected the fresh flower supply, Sparks said.

"I haven't heard of any issues that are affecting flower availability. Quality is excellent for the holiday," she said.


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