What stood out at IFTF this year was the large number of exhibitors from the main rose countries in the world: Kenya, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Colombia. It seemed like they were more present than at the previous editions of the fair. One of those companies was Da Vinci Roses from Ecuador, the company of Fernando Guerrero. We spoke with Renato Hernández, sales executive of Da Vinci Roses.
Da Vinci exhibited at IFTF for the first time. They were in the CORPEI stand, together with eight other rose growers. CORPEI is an organisation for entrepreneurs from different sectors, explained Hernández. Da Vinci Roses showed 6 of their 40 varieties.
Hernández and his employer Fernando Guerrero travelled to the Netherlands to find European customers for the roses they grow in Tabacundo in Ecuador. Their nursery comprises of 12.5 hectares, not very large to Ecuadorian standards. Hernández: ”In Ecuador, you can find rose farms of 30, 40 or 50 hectares.”
Hernández: “We already have some customers in France, Germany and Spain, but we’d like to expand on the European market. We want to diversify our distribution market”, explained Hernández. Da Vinci Roses isn’t looking for Dutch traders to help them though; they prefer to sell directly, he added.
Most of Da Vinci Roses’ production (40%) is shipped to Russia, a country that has been recovering from a big recession. The rest goes to Europe, the United States and Asia. “We’re also trying to expand in the US”, said Hernández. “Our brand is strong in Russia and Europe, we’re hoping to strengthen it in the US too.”
Hernández is hopeful that the American import duties on flowers from Ecuador will be abolished. “That’s what I hear anyway”, he said. The sales executive returned to Ecuador four years ago, after having lived in Spain for 15 years.
Asked about any disadvantages of the Ecuadorian flower industry, he mentioned the lack of air-cargo space. “It isn’t so much the cost of airfreight, but the availability of aircrafts and aircraft space, that’s the problem”, according to Hernández.
”Whenever a Colombian grower needs an aircraft, it’s there in no time. It doesn’t work like that for us. Especially at peak times. We don’t have enough imports and thus, not enough return flights. And our volumes of flowers are too small. Ecuador exports oil, shrimps and bananas. Flowers only come in fourth place and that makes it harder to negotiate sufficient aircraft space.”
Hernández is aware that some Ecuadorian flowers are shipped by sea cargo. To Chile, as far as he knows. And he’s heard that it works fine. Even for roses. Nobody has tried using sea cargo to ship roses to Europe yet.
With regards to the performance of their president, Lenín Moreno, he didn’t want to say too much. Apparently, the successor of socialist Rafael Correa is more supportive of entrepreneurs than his predecessor. Correa, who lives in Belgium nowadays, increased the minimum wages every year, among other things. “The new president is more open minded. He has good ideas, but he still needs to realise them.” When it comes to wages, Hernández said that Da Vinci Roses adheres to the legal requirements, in fact they pay more than the minimum.
Finally, how’s business at the moment? Hernández: “Making a profit is never easy. It’s always a struggle. But we keep trying our best to innovate and improve the quality of our roses.”