De Ruiter East Africa Ltd. (DREA) is De Ruiter’s main operation in Africa. Established in the early nineties as one of the pioneer rose breeders in an upcoming flower industry on this continent, the company was initially set up as an agency with Oserian, one of the founding father companies for roses in Kenya.

In 2007 the company became a 100% subsidiary and from then on De Ruiter took its own course. The cut rose assortment was quickly increased with varieties in the three segments, sweetheart, intermediate and T-hybrid. To be able to offer a good alternative in all segments and colours, the portfolio of 15 varieties increased to 50+, ten years ago. As a proven retail variety breeder, DREA gained respect for its wider assortment, including spray roses and other crops such as hydrangeas, hypericum and anigozanthos. With close to 20% marketshare, De Ruiter is one of the leading rose breeders in East Africa. With 2.7 hectare of Green House and 55 employees, DREA has a good size structure. Next to this, De Ruiter has three more show/trial houses in Kenya and two more in Ethiopia.

COVID-19 impact
COVID-19 has had its clear impact on the flower industry and this is reflected on plantings of new varieties. DREA continues monitoring these developments for its selections of new codes. Interestingly, whilst most growers are seeking low risk older varieties, others are looking for something different. Proper assessment of new variety prospects can provide the solutions. The breeding and selection team is invigorated by the prospect of fulfilling the demand for proven winners, next to the need for differentiation with novelties.

Tropical Amazone, Sweet Unique, Clarion, Almanza, Sonrisa and the Calypso lines, are gaining renewed interest for the increasing retail volumes. Traditionally strong in red varieties, DREA sees rewarding sales results of stable and well positioned varieties as Furiosa, Rhodos or Ever Red. Asked about Ever Red and its appreciation of De Ruiter, Gordon Miller of Rift Valley says: “De Ruiter is a very important breeder, which protects its varieties, since over subscription only serves to cheapen novelty products. De Ruiter constantly comes up with new varieties and proved to have some excellent red varieties in particular; their rose genetics are excellent.” Stuart on Ever Red®: “Its length, head size and most importantly its colour and shape are unique. With its deep red velvet interior it opens graciously, with good shelf live, and it is the most beautiful rose which conveys a variety of unspoken messages from the giver to the recipient.”

De Ruiter’s vision for East Africa has not changed because of COVID-19. Creating Flower Business is a slogan that covers strong pillars of being a reliable, innovative breeder of quality rose varieties whilst living up to standards of corporate social responsibility and environmentally friendly and sustainable entrepreneurship. The traditional breeding and selection methods are complemented with data-based predictive breeding methods, supported by DNA profiling and disease resistance research. De Ruiter believes that only varieties that are apt for the new challenging growing conditions of climate change which require less spraying and less water use for production, will be successful in the near future, thus leaving a smaller footprint of chemical residue.

The Kenyan market
The Kenyan Floricultural sector has endured a tough 2-3 years, commencing with a difficult market in late 2018. Over supply from both Ethiopia and Kenya from December 2018 through April 2019 seriously impacted growers returns in the regions. Weather conditions have been atypical too with continuous rains from October 2019 through July 2020. These challenges and COVID-19 have forced growers to seriously review strategy; hence more focus is now on higher yielding and older varieties by many growers. Costs of operation are down. More efficiency is demanded on farm and down the cold chain. More reliable clients and relationships continue to develop. The uncertainty of the unprecedented period of March-June appears to be left behind.

In spite of these challenges the future looks promising. Most farms will survive 2020. DREA sees good opportunities for its choice of well tested retail intermediate roses and the development of newer retail and wholesale varieties. Some growers are wishing “to be different” by selecting new varieties. In summary retail growers will become stronger and wholesale growers will have more space to develop for online sales, if not via the Dutch auctions. Overall, DREA is confident about the short-term improvements in the industry. DREA will have Open House days on 23 & 24 September at its Naivasha showhouse.