It's Women's Day! For many growers, this is one of the most important holidays after Valentine's Day. It is largely celebrated in Russia and Eastern Europe, where men give a nice bouquet of flowers to almost every woman in his life. And this year, red roses were in high demand and prices were high. We spoke to several growers all over the world and overall, they seem to be satisfied.
The Rhizkaya market yesterday. On the right, tulips in cold storage at one of the wholesalers. Photos in this article were kindly shared with us by Lejla Begovic, marketing manager at Deliflor Chrysanten. Together with two Dutch chrysanthemum growers she visited different wholesalers, cash & carry stores and a number of florists in the Moscow region. "The mood was very positive, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays it was very crowded everywhere and I expect it was busy yesterday as well. The quality, at least of the chrysanthemums, was good. All Russian buyers with whom I spoke were positive about the course of the week. Last year I was paying a visit as well and I think sales were much better this year as compared to last year."
Out of Kenya, reactions are mostly positive. Guido Zwart, sales manager at rose farm Elgon Collection is satisfied with the production, quality and sales.
Valentine's Day and Women's Day are both important for us, but Women's Day is more interesting since the focus is not only on red roses. Besides, the Valentines period is relatively short compared to the Women's Day period.The demand for Women's Day was high, although the (pre) orders came in later than usual this year; we expect this had to do with the very long period of low prices and high availability on the market/auction during the last two quarters of 2018."
For Elgon, the roses for Women's Day mainly go to Russia and Ukraine. The last boxes for the 8th of March supplies left their farm on Tuesday the 5th of March and were delivered to their clients on Thursday night, the 7th of March.
Dutch flower arranger Peter van der Sluis makes bouquets in European style. On the right: a bouquet made with the chrysanthemum Etrusko White.
Also for Farah Samji of Kenyan rose farm AAA Growers, Women's Day was really good. “We did not flush that much as many other growers and we now benefit from it. On top of that, we noticed a higher demand from Germany and Eastern Europe, countries that we supply to directly for Women’s Day. Red did very well and particularly the big head sizes that we produce and supply to the clock received good prices; well above 1 euro a stem.”
And that flushing is the story of Valentine's Day, confirms Peter Viljoen of Sunland Roses. "Many growers try to increase their production for Valentine's Day. Particularly red needs to be sold and in the past, we also flushed our crop. However, we noticed that the effects were negative. We learned from it and decided to not flush the crop anymore and we can see the benefits. The sales are like the good old days again and for the first time I noticed a shortage in supply. If you were in production, you were smiling. Important is that your crop is in balance. As soon as you start flushing the crop for a particular holiday, there will be a natural flush afterwards on a non-holiday and then the market is flooded again."
In general, the growers are satisfied with the quality. "It is hot and dry, which makes the cultivation of the roses challenging; the head sizes reduce a bit and it's a challenge to keep thrips out of the greenhouse", says Ivan Freeman of Uhuru Flowers. This rose grower is also satisfied about Women's Day, but just like Sunland, he's been trying to keep his production stable for years.
Another challenge growers in Kenya are dealing with are the high prices for fertilizers. "There is no shortage anymore, but the prices are very high", says Freeman.
Good quality disbudded chrysanthemum at a wholesaler, and on the right a bouquet with chrysanthemum Magnum.
Martijn Bouwman of BSI, who imports flowers from various Ethiopian growers to the Netherlands, is also pleased with the results. "Prices were better than expected. Production was not spectacular, because the nights in Ethiopia have been relatively cold. They're only starting to get warmer now. A number of growers did try to produce more flowers for Valentine's Day, but they cannot increase production as much as their Kenyan counterparts. Kenyan growers who 'flushed' the crop with Valentine's Day flooded the market back then. As a result their production is low these days and the Ethiopians profit. Although growers generally still put more emphasis on Valentine's Day, International Women's Day is becoming increasingly important."
"Because of these developments, in particular red is sold well", Martijn concludes. "Stems were sold at the auction for about twice the normal price. Also, prices were quite a bit higher as compared to Valentine's Day.”
Colombian grower David Quesada of Inverpalmas primarily supplies carnations for Women's Day. "The weather has been particularly strange this year. After Valentine's Day, Women's Day is one of the most important holidays to us. Although in terms of volumes, Mother's Day in the US is. The demand was not extremely high, but since production was not really high I think the market demanded the product. The prices were okay, not as good as Valentine's Day, but not bad." For roses, their biggest market is the US, however, for carnations and minis Canada, UK, most of Europe, Russia, South Korea, Japan and Spain are important to them.
The weather was quite strange, Quesada explains. "Well, we know the roses need sunlight and even though it did not rain a lot at the farm, it has been sunny in the morning, then overcast around noon, then again sunny in the afternoon." Another challenge is logistics. "I think logistics is constantly part of the challenges, not just because of the airspace but because we need to be ready for the unexpected."
Flower shops in Kievskaya in Moscow opened 24 hours
Jorge Ortega of rose farm Matina Flowers did not have any expectations for this season. "The Russian market is still very low and we therefore did not program any additional production for Women's Day." Valentine’s Day remains their most important day. "Even when the Russian market was at its best, Valentine’s Day will always be the most important day for rose growers. Now, the demand is high in long stems (70+ cm), which is the smallest percentage of the production (about 40%). The demand for short stems was low, probably due to the oversupply in Ecuador and Colombia. Prices were also high for the long stem and low for the short stems. Women's Day is still focused on Russia and ex-Soviet Union countries, and 90 percent of our products go to Russia for Women's Day.
"The main challenge this year was to explain to customers why we don’t have as much extra product as they were expecting. The explanation is simple: Women's Day has become an 'open market holiday', this means that customers are waiting until the last moment to put the orders, which is a risk for us, if you add to this to the low prices it makes it so much more profitable for us to prepare the farms only only for Valentine's Day."
Pablo Bazzini of La Plazoleta, who grows several summer and focal flowers and are quite known for their brand Perfection, is happy to see that Russians are now not only seeing Colombia as a rose or carnation grower, but more as a one-stop shop for all kinds of varieties. The main crop of Plazoleta is the alstroemeria. "We felt an increase in demand for this product, but we also received several big orders of limonium. On top of that, we received more orders from many other Russian cities, other than Moscow, that have direct importers."
Santiago Luzuriaga, General Director of BellaRosa and Rose Connection tells us that the rose prices were 5% higher than last year. Also the prices for Valentine's Day were higher this year, compared to last year. However, the balance between supply and demand was better with Women's Day. "On Valentine's Day the supply was higher than the demand, there were a lot of flowers in the market. On the other hand, on Women's Day the demand was high." And this is probably the result of the unfavorable weather conditions. "The weather was favorable in the first weeks of this year, which generated a good harvest for Valentine's Day, however they varied unfavorably for Women's Day."
Also Xavier Beltran of Florecal, who only supplies a small portion of his flowers to Russia, heard from his fellow growers that there were not that many roses on the market. "Due to the weather, the roses were ready too early, about 5 days. He also heard that there was a high demand for red rose variety Explorer."
Besides roses, Chysanthemums is an important product for Women's Day too. "Last year the trade was more hectic", Danny van Uffelen of Dutch chrysanthemum grower Uffelen Chrysanten tells us. “Sales started off great, but prices seriously went down in week 8. This year, sales leveled out over the course of the last weeks, and that's better for all: growers, exporters, and wholesalers. Besides we noticed more demand, not only from Russia but also from countries like Poland and the Baltic States, with orders being placed up to a few days before. Lastly, trust in good sales is high, as our customers are already ordering flowers for the day after, once the shelves are empty.”
Also the Russian growers have been busy. "Over 3 million flowers will be delivered for sale by greenhouses in the Moscow region before March 8", reported the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mr. Andrey Razin.
The emergency services of Moscow also have a floral surprise for the women of the city