‘All in all we’re having a good Valentine period’

Positive feedback from South America and varying opinions from Africa and the Netherlands. A week before Valentine’s Day, not everyone is speaking of a top day for flower sales. But things can still change in the last couple of days leading up to the holiday.

Some growers said that all the work related to Valentine’s Day had already been done by the beginning of this week. In Ecuador for example, Monday the 6th of February was considered the last busy day.

Victor van Dijk, area manager South America at FleuraMetz, says that the demand for red and pink roses exceeded supply this year. “Production was too early last year, but this year the timing was perfect. Or maybe a few days late. Not all flowers that were allocated for cutting, will be harvested in time. But the quality is excellent. The weather isn’t too bad”, according to Van Dijk.

In Colombia, weather conditions are optimal. It was sunny all week, perfect for the peak around Valentine’s Day season. The demand from North American flower bunching companies is huge, says Van Dijk. “And it’s not just roses they’re after, the demand for carnation has exploded, too. Growers are now harvesting so early, that there’s hardly any colour on the flowers.”

Unfortunately, reports from Ethiopia aren’t as positive. Production over there has been bad because of the long period of low temperatures.

“Up until four weeks ago, the higher altitude areas were still getting quite a few frosty mornings. We’re seeing lots of blind shoots, there are only few roses to cut, but the prices are good. It’s hard these days to meet the demand and we’ve even had to buy additional supply. All in all, I’m not too happy”, admitted Paul Holla of Holla Roses.

They aren’t harvesting an awful lot at the moment. The company has year-round production and processes orders all the time. Three quarters of their production is sold in advance.

“That takes the pressure off Valentine’s Day. The month of May is more important for us, that’s our major sales period. There aren’t too many roses from Kenya in that month, so if you can increase your price by a few cents, it can make a real difference”, explains Holla.

At the moment, there’s no shortage at all in Kenya. They’ve had good weather and supply is as expected. This is also the case at Mount Elgon Orchards, a 34-ha nursery at the border of Kenya and Uganda.

“We cut everything back last November, hoping to get a good flush of Red Naomi. I’m happy to say that our expectations were met. We ended up with good quantities, both for the auction clock and for our direct customers. Prices and quality are all good. Last year was a bit disappointing, but not this time around.”

Timaflor’s Simon van der Burg confirms that each year is different. Last week, supply at the auctions wasn’t excessive and still, the prices weren’t great. Red was the only colour that was sold at prices similar to last year. Everything else was 5 to 10 cents cheaper.

“But Valentine’s Day falls later in the week this year, so we’ve got an extra Monday and Tuesday.” The beginning of this week was better than the same week last year, according to Simon van der Burg.

“Today (Tuesday), prices suddenly went up by 4 to 6 cents. Purchases are made more and more at the last minute, so prices might go up in the last couple of days, to compensate for the previous week.”

Van der Burg has noticed that Kenyan growers say their production has gone down. “But there have been more charter flights than ever during the past ten days. So all in all, I’d say we’re having a good Valentine period.”

In 2016, Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday. This year it falls on a weekday, that’s generally more favourable for the distribution. And most businesses will also pay attention to Valentine’s Day. That could have a positive impact on sales.

Despite this positive scenario, prices weren’t great yet in week 5, according to some Dutch growers. Royal FloraHolland’s figures confirm this. Sales of large-flowered roses had even gone down by 17% in week 5. And prices were 10% lower on average.

This is in line with the experience of Aad Fransen of Fransen Roses in the Dutch town of De Lier. He sold his roses at 10% lower prices, but he agrees also that there will still be plenty of purchases in week 6. “It’s probably not going to be as good as last year, but it might still be coming. There’s a whole week left. Traders are more and more holding off until the last moment”, says Fransen.

But he adds that production is good. It wasn’t great during week 4, when it was too cold to cut any roses. But we caught up in week 5. “We’ve now started cutting again and production has increased by 15 to 20%. A good harvest.”

Fransen Roses grows Red Naomi and Myrna. The latter is doing alright, but Red Naomi is clearly the one that’s in high demand around Valentine’s Day according to the grower. Mark van der Hulst, another rose grower, agrees. He doesn’t have red in his assortment. “So we don’t really count during these weeks”, says Van der Hulst.

There’s a tiny increase in the prices for pink and white, but other colours such as orange and yellow play no role at all on this flower day. “On Valentine’s Day, it’s the men that buy flowers and they simply want a red rose”, according to Van der Hulst.

Jos van der Meijs of Avance Roses in Maasland, the Netherlands, grower of Red Naomi, indicates that he hasn’t received great prices so far. He describes the situation as ‘quite poor’. He’s getting 10 cents less than last year for his Red Naomi, but he also admits that it’s too early to know the final outcome. “We’ve got a few more days to go. Orders could still come in on the 13th and the 14th of February.”

Van der Meijs didn’t take as many advance orders as last year. Cor den Elzen, rose buyer at P. van Dam in Honselersdijk, feels that growers wanted quite high prices for the advance orders this year and that’s why he didn’t order ahead too much.

“I did for some of our purchases of course, you do need to cover yourself. But not as much as last year. Growers were asking € 1.50, while I could get Red Naomi for € 1.25 at the auction today”, he illustrates.

According to Den Elzen, prices are increasing, but they haven’t yet reached last year’s level. On Monday the 6th of February, prices didn’t exceed € 1.50.

With the exception of the longer stems from the quality nurseries. “The very best quality growers’ length 8 was sold at € 3.50 this morning. That’s more than double the price, compared to other suppliers”, indicates John van der Meer. He’s been buying for Verbeek Export for more than forty years and unlike the growers, he’s positive about the situation.

As Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday, he expects that sales will be better. He noticed that there’s been a great increase in supply the last couple of weeks, especially of imported produce. “The auction currently receives around 400,000 stems per week of varieties that they normally have 10,000 of. When you see that, you know you’ve got to watch out”, he says.