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The comeback of Meilland Roses
Meilland Roses is one of the major rose breeders worldwide. Going back to the mid-nineteenth century, it’s also one of the oldest, boasting many famous varieties over the years. Those familiar in the business remember the Baccara, a long-time success and more recently the Samourai, a red variety holding the honour of being the most grown variety in countries like Iran, Japan, Brazil, Mexico and several other countries today. Headquartered in France, it boasts 5 trial locations throughout Europe, as well as employing agents in over 62 countries worldwide. Also in Kenya two trial locations are in operation: one at high altitude farm Uhuru Flowers (2,600 meters, at Mount Kenya), and one at Penta Flowers in Thika (1,600 m), a small town close to Nairobi. On our visit to the IFTEX two weeks ago, we had a chance to stop by.
Bruno Etavard and Jean Dyens
Jean Dyens, who's been living in Kenya for many years now, and Bruno Etavard, who pays a visit regularly, are the men overseeing the trials. While walking through the greenhouse, they talk some history as well as sharing the ins and outs of day to day business. “We really started our activities in Kenya nine years ago. As you know, that’s late. The big gulf of going Kenya started at least 10 years earlier. Historic reasons – we put our focus on South America earlier and to some extent lost contact with the Dutch and German colleague breeders settling here, and also time required for achieving breeding results for this zone – are to blame. However, today we are truly making a comeback. In garden roses we are among the largest breeder in the world in terms of innovation, in cut roses our latest varieties keep on gaining popularity."
Penta was the first customer of Meilland in Kenya. For already twenty years this grower cultivates Meilland varieties, resulting in a fair bond of trust. Hence the location of the trials, but just one place was not enough. “We need to learn as much as possible. How do these varieties perform in other climates, under different circumstances? One of the factors is altitude, because many growers literally seek high ground for production. That’s why the second location at Uhuru Flowers was contracted for selection of our new varieties.”
First plant patent
Meilland is particularly proud of the many protected varieties it has continuously been bringing to the market. Today, it boasts over 1,000 protected varieties, as well as half a thousand brands. “Actually, the 'Peace' rose was the first rose variety ever to be granted a plant patent in the USA. This was a huge moment for Meilland, especially in hindsight, for the whole scheme of our business is built on Intellectual Property, license agreements and thus royalty collection to finance further breeding activities .”
Some of the new varieties (clockwise, starting upper left): Meiwangry Lovely Pink, Meokseten Fiorella, Meigriotti Bingo Cerise, Meimervag Summertime
Breeders RightsOne of the main reasons for Meilland to be particularly fond of Kenya is the operational confidence, the well-supervised business climate. “In Kenya, Breeders Rights are generally respected. Authorities do monitor and oversee fair business and transparency levels are high. That is by no means self-evident. In countries like Ethiopia, for example, these standards are not yet reached, as is the case for several other East African countries, but we hope they will reach them soon to the benefit of the whole industry. Besides climate, light, altitude and the general advantages of being within the hub, the general respect for property rights will not make us go anywhere else.”
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