We’re having guests at the moment – a couple who we were friends with when we were all living in Naivasha. About 35 years ago, he was the manager of a large nursery, who shipped all his produce to the auction. I was the manager of another large nursery and I sold all produce directly. Our friends worked in the floricultural industry in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and India, before settling in the south of France 15 years ago, where they’re working in the wine industry. We stayed on in Kenya all those years and continued our work with flowers.
After all those years, we bumped into each other again, purely coincidentally, when the Tour de France passed through their town last summer. Our old friends were more than happy to show us around their business in the south of France. We got to see the vineyard, the school, the restaurant, the huge cellars filled with barrels, bottles and all the different labels. I guess everyone dreams of owning a chateau and producing their own wine. We do, anyway.
But now, our friends our visiting us, during a week full of events. A week that proves we can’t live without the floricultural industry. When you talk to people, there’s never a shortage of opinions about how things should be done. The expression ‘market-oriented cultivation’ for example, always makes me laugh. The ultimate was ‘market-oriented breeding’ – trying to predict what kind of rose the average housewife would like 10 years down the line!
We’re pretty old-fashioned in that respect. We simply grow what’s popular at the moment and try to do that better than anyone else. It’s a matter of finding the right location and the best people, who are fully committed. A year has 365 days for us. We know that some weeks are better than others. Last week, for some reason, there was a shortage of roses. All of a sudden, prices went through the roof. The same time last year, there was a surplus.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: with all our modern tools like email, internet, web shops, FloraMondo and so on, there’s still no one who knows all the answers. We also welcomed some visitors from FloraHolland to our nursery this week. When we sat in the boardroom together after the tour, I tried to explain that we should cut some costs. Put an end to all those peripheral activities – the customers are much better at it.
The auction should focus on better and more efficient logistics and stricter procedures for supplying to the auction. The appreciation for auction suppliers should be restored, because growers and buyers really can’t function without each other. That became clear once more last week. My old friend from France got to observe it all and said: “Simon, nothing’s changed during all those years.”
Simon van der Burg,
Rose grower, Kenya