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Van den Berg Roses: revenue model based on sustainably grown roses in China, Kenya and Europe

"Beneficials are often more effective than chemical agents"

With almost 100 hectares of roses in the Netherlands, Kenya, and China, Van den Berg Roses is a major producer. The company works continuously on improving the sustainability of the crop, not only in the Netherlands but also in Kenya and China. ‘A sustainable product is less replaceable,’ explains director Arie van den Berg in an interview with Koppert Biological Systems. ‘The retail, the trade, and we ourselves have produced a good revenue model on the basis of sustainable cultivation.’

Van den Berg Roses produces large-bloom roses in the Netherlands (12 hectares at two locations in Delfgauw) and China (15 hectares, in meshed plastic greenhouses) and medium-sized bloom roses in Kenya (70 hectares, in plastic greenhouses). A large proportion of the roses from Kenya and the Netherlands go via the trading company Bocchi Flower to retailers and florist chains in the Western and North-Western European market. Van den Berg Roses is very familiar with integrated pest management. In the Netherlands, the company’s products bear the quality labels MPS-A and ISO. In Kenya, sustainability is no less important. There too, the company prefers to resolve problems using biological beneficials and as few chemicals as possible.

Arie van den Berg

Distinction in the market

Many of the Kenyan products end up on the shelves of a leading German retailer. Early last year, that retailer greatly tightened its requirements and a maximum was set for residue levels. ‘Of course, it doesn’t take much to end up with residues on roses. The retailer understood that. But they have to deal with a critical society, and they wanted an even cleaner product. They also set even stricter requirements regarding business operations in social terms.’ Van den Berg Roses, together with advice and research organisation DLV, Koppert, and other suppliers, did everything within their power to improve matters, as those stricter requirements were due to come into effect in 2013. They succeeded, and the company and Bocchi Flower remained the preferred suppliers of the retailer concerned. ‘Our roses from Kenya are now certainly less replaceable. We have created a clear distinction in the market. And all of us gain from it: we ourselves, Bocchi Flowers, and the retailer.’

Critical checks

Anyone who thinks ‘Kenya shouldn’t pose too much of a problem’ is mistaken. In mid-April, employees of Bocchi and the retailer visited the company - situated at an altitude of 1,900 metres - once again to carry out very critical checks. ‘Improving sustainability is not something that can be done just like that,’ says Arie van den Berg. ‘It is hard work, and an ongoing process.’ The Kenyan roses are now also put onto the market under the MPS-A and MPS-SQ labels. The company is also keen to implement integrated cultivation in China. Van den Berg has a local partner in China in the form of the Dutchman Nic Pannekeet who is based there. The middle-class population is growing in China, and demand for flowers and plants is increasing. Food safety is a particularly important issue as a result of food scandals in the country. The same applies to ornamentals, though to a lesser extent. Nevertheless, Van den Berg also wants to make progress in this respect, if only because beneficials are often more effective than chemical agents.


A range of biological products

Arie van den Berg is very much open to a wide range of biological products: beneficials, plant strengtheners such as Trianum, and biostimulants such as the new product Linafer-P. The company uses everything that the crop can make good use of. Van den Berg hopes that manufacturers will come up with good biological solutions for pests such as scale insects and mealy bugs. ‘Our rose crops remain for longer and longer these days,’ he explains. ‘The aphids and whitefly can find more hiding places in the older crops. Chemicals are simply insufficient to deal with that problem.’

The quality is undisputed

When new problems arise, Koppert is the quickest to respond. Muriel Klein Beekman (in the Netherlands) and Alex Moss (in Kenya) are closely involved in biological crop protection. According to Arie van den Berg, they always have the latest knowledge and a great deal of experience, which they put to good use. There are still plenty of challenges for the rose producer. The market is becoming more transparent, and contacts with the trade and the story behind the product and the producer are becoming more important. The product is ready to sell, and the quality is undisputed. All that remains is to ensure good marketing. Van den Berg will also take care of this if necessary. Together with other producers of the white variety Avalanche, he acquired exclusivity for the variety. 'Today, consumers ask for “that white rose”. In future, they will have to ask for “Avalanche from Holland”. It is a costly operation, but it is starting to work in various markets.’

For more information:
Koppert Biological Systems
[email protected]

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