The Netherlands used to be a large rose producing country, but over the years, the rose acreage decreased sharply and shifted to Kenya and Ethiopia. "Dutch roses still outperform the African roses on year round quality, but since techniques in Africa are also enhancing, more is needed and particularly in this challenging times with the COVID-19 situation", says Dutch roses grower Remco van der Arend of Arend Roses. So, how to stay ahead, or even keep your head above water as a Dutch rose grower? We had a talk with him and paid a visit to their greenhouse in Maasland, the Westland area.
Will Zuiderwijk with Remco van der Arend presenting their eight varieties. Will joined the sales team recently.
Arend Roses was established by Remco's father Nico van der Arend in 1976, out of pure love for the roses. He named the nursery, that was based in the town of Monster, South Holland, "Rozenkwekerij van der Arend". After four years, the company moved to Maasdijk, and now they grow roses on eleven hectares, spread across two locations in the Municipality of Westland. Now, together with Richard van der Lans, Remco runs the business.
Their largest crop; Avalanche.
Dealing with COVID-19
The COVID-19 situation is affecting the entire floral industry worldwide, also Arend Roses. So, how are they dealing with it? "Countries are changing quickly and therefore adaptivity is required for many businesses. Also we have to adapt constantly to the changing situations. Fortunately, our employees are healthy and we make sure the workplace is safe. We decided to grow the crop in a cooler climate with lower light levels - which is actually beneficial for the quality of the crop. Also, we try to shift markets from the countries to which we are currently not allowed to export to to other buyers, in the Netherlands, for example. The situation changes quickly, so adaptability is key and I think we are managing it quite well at the moment."
The 11 ha greenhouse acreage is divided in 2 greenhouses, one of 8 ha and one of 3 ha. In he picture the 8ha greenhouse that we visited.
Being a Dutch grower in this competitive market
Not only now, with the COVID-19 crisis, but for several years, Arend Roses is looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition and to 'survive' as a Dutch Rose grower.
Red Eagle growing in the greenhouse.
Over the years, the rose market has become filled with imported roses, mainly coming from East Africa and South America. As not only the competition, but also the quality increased, many Dutch growers went out of business - mainly because of increasing costs and decreasing prices as more roses entered the market. "As a Dutch grower, we used to outperform the foreign competition with our quality, but as they improved the quality of their products, it is hard to compete."
Over the years, Kenya have become the largest player regarding volumes that used to increase year after year. So, since the increase in volumes coming from this African country, Richard and Remco are continuously looking for ways to stand out.. "We always want to differentiate ourselves by our year-round quality, with a vase-life of around ten days in consistent volumes. Such supply reliability is important nowadays".
In the greenhouse (Red Eagle, their second largest crop)
But that's not all. They used to focus on red and white only, but in 2014, they decided to expand their assortment, and with exclusive varieties only. "In this way, we try to become a one-stop shop regarding roses and offer our clients varieties they can differentiate themselves with as well." Currently, they are growing 8 exclusive varieties, namely Avalanche+®, Red Eagle®, Pink Avalanche+, Prima Donna+, Talea+, Wow!®, Lovelace+ and Black Baccara®.
Pink Avalanche+ (third largest crop), a mutant of Avalanche+.
On top of that, they want to grow as organic as possible and currently 95% of their crop protection measurements is organic. For several years now, they've been working on it and according to Remco, they have become quite good in it over the last 2 years. "It takes a lot of time to learn which organic products work for what kind of crop. We are still learning, but I am very pleased." And Remco sees two advantages of growing organically. "In the long term, costs will decrease and we've experienced that the crop is performing better."
Black Baccara®, one of their varieties for the niche market, together with Wow!® and Lovelace+.
Also in cultivation techniques, Arend Roses is progressive. Earlier this year, they invested in a water disinfection installation based on ultrafiltration (UF), namely Goalkeeper; click here for the article that we've published.
And they continue investing in new techniques as well as new varieties. "We are always running trials, with new varieties and new techniques. When a new variety passes our requirements, we will add them to our assortment and grow them exclusively."
And not to forget, certifications. "We try to stay on top of it and try to comply with all necessary certifications."
Processing the crop. After being graded automatically, the bunches are sleeved manually to have an extra manual quality check.
In order to market all their efforts and put their varieties on the map, they hired Marketing Manager Annemieke van Loon 2 years ago and recently welcomed Will Zuiderwijk to their marketing and sales team. "I think we are now one of the forerunners regarding marketing and brand perception."