This year’s celebration of Day of the Dead will see many families return to cemeteries that had been closed during the pandemic, bearing food, drinks and of course, flowers.
The cempasúchil (marigold) – which is native to Mexico and grown in various states – is the most ubiquitous of the traditional flowers used to decorate ofrendas and tombs, and has been a symbol of the cycles of life and death since ancient times.
The Ministry of Agriculture has announced that 27 million plants were harvested this season, equivalent to 20,245 tonnes.
Since 2016, domestic producers have found a new opportunity for additional income by selling leftover flowers to food processing companies. Each season, there is about 30% leftover unsold from the harvest. Major companies like Barcel and Sabritas use the bright carotenoid pigments in the flowers as a colorant in their food products (cheetos, anyone?) and are seeking to increase the country’s supply of this raw material.
To secure good quality flowers, companies advance 25% of the total payment to growers to buy quality seeds. Then they start planting in August, when they sow about 35 hectares in greenhouses to ensure they bloom by October. This agreement is known as “contract farming.”
Today, 90 growers from the areas of Atlixco and Huaquechula sell the flower both as a seasonal ornamental piece for the Day of the Dead, and as a food component after the season ends.
According to industry representative Eduardo Robelo Estrada, quoted in the newspaper El Economista, the objective is to cultivate 65 hectares in the next three years to supply larger companies that export to the U.S.