Ecuadorian grower Valeria Salvador

‘Some customers call our farm a rose boutique’

Could you tell us a little about Fiscella Flowers?
“It’s a relatively small (to Ecuadorian standards) rose farm of 10 ha and we’ve had it for ten years now. Our company specialises in new varieties. Some customers call our farm a rose boutique. We cultivate 65 varieties commercially and in addition we test cultivars which aren’t yet commercial, especially for Ecuadorian and Dutch breeders. Our nursery is situated at an altitude of over 3,000 metres, which influences the way the roses develop. The buds are larger and the colours are more intense.”

Who do you sell your roses to?
“70% of the roses goes to Russia, 20% to Europe and 10% to the United States. The Russian market is in bad shape due to the weak rouble. We’re no longer getting high prices for our quality products. The Russians can’t afford that any more. That’s why we’d like to increase our sales to Europe and the United States, so we’re doing lots of tests with varieties that might be popular for those markets.”

Was Fiscella hit hard by the Russian crisis?
“Yes, we were. The roses that we cultivated were very suitable for the Russian market. But 20% of our production was left unsold. We cleared some of the Russian varieties and we’re still busy replacing those. We responded to the setbacks with some drastic cost-cutting measures. They included replacing the professional security staff with our own employees. We didn’t save on cultivation though. Quality remains the most important.”

Have you found many customers in Europe and the US so far?
“When we started out in Russia, we quickly made a name for ourselves. That’s a lot more difficult in Europe and in North America. The competition in Europe is strong, it’s a mature market. And European customers are using their own name instead of our company name. The consumers who buy the flowers don’t know that we produced them. The difficulty with Americans is that they’re very loyal towards their suppliers. It’s really hard to get in for a new player on the market.”

How are you doing now?
“We’re breaking even at the moment. But the market is going through a tough time. Supply is exceeding demand. And the competition is stronger than a few years ago. The quality of Ethiopian, Kenyan and Colombian growers is improving. Colombia used to have mostly older varieties, but they’re also planting new cultivars now. And their production costs are lower. We seem to be losing our advantage over other countries – the favourable natural conditions which ensure the long, thick stems and large buds. Thanks to genetic engineering, other countries can provide heavy roses with large buds too. And some farms increase their size in order to reduce costs. That’s something we won’t do. If the market is bad, we simply don’t sell part of our crop. That way, we can save on post-harvest costs.”

About Valeria Salvador

Company: Fiscella Flowers
Product: rose
Place: Cayambe Ecuador
Acreage: 10 ha