Turning Gray into Colors
Vicente Jaramillo, Bayer’s regional sales manager, went to the city of Tabacundo, in northern Ecuador, to talk to Julio Valenzuela with Bellarosa. The company – a reference in the production of Ecuadorian roses – is located at the footsteps of Cayambe, an active volcano.
Vicente Jaramillo – What can you tell us about Bellarosa roses production?
Julio Valenzuela – Bellarosa is a family business that started 21 years ago and has expanded since, particularly in the last 15 years when the group launched a second company called Rose Connection. They began with only 4 hectares, currently they have 53 hectares and over 100 varieties of roses grown in greenhouses.
Jaramillo – It seems unusual to have agriculture near volcanoes. Why have you chosen this location?
Valenzuela - In general, areas close to volcanoes have rich soils resulting from ancient eruptions. Volcanoes emit materials over the years (e.g., sand and ash). These materials come from the center of the Earth, and have a large amount of minerals. Therefore, these soils are good in terms of nutrients, permeability and water retention for crops.
Jaramillo – Is this the reason why Ecuador roses are so beautiful?
Valenzuela – Indeed! Nutrients are very important. Also, the cooler areas close to the volcanoes and the light (Ecuador has 12 hours of sunlight a day) make a significant difference. These three elements combined enable us to produce long stem roses, with large buds, vivid colors and exuberant foliage, which differentiates Ecuadorian roses around the world.
Bayer Regional Sales Managery
Jaramillo – But not everything is “rosy”, I understand you have some challenges…
Valenzuela – Sure. We have an annual renewal policy of 5% to 8% of the varieties of roses in our portfolio. This presents an opportunity to introduce offers that meet customers’ needs, and to remain market leaders. We not only offer the best quality at the best price, but add value through our service offer.
Jaramillo – We know that Cayambe is an active volcano, recently there were some gas emissions. Have you taken any safety measures?
Valenzuela – Cayambe was inactive for centuries, since 1786. In August of 2016, we had the first signs of activity in the volcano. Earlier this year, we developed an emergency response plan as a result of a meeting which included flower companies, other agricultural sectors and the municipal government. We identified areas to set refuge in the cities of Cayambe and Tabacundo. In our company, we have 570 workers and a specialist in health and safety. We have evacuation drills regularly and identified meeting points in case of emergency. We have also implemented posters with guidelines throughout the facility, and do constant training around safe behaviors in case of volcano eruptions.
Jaramillo – Besides the roses, is there another type of flower you cultivate?
Valenzuela – Our focus is roses, but we are diversifying. We began to offer dyed and preserved roses. The latter we have been succesfully offering for the past two years. They offer an alternative in social events or weddings. Sometimes customers desire to have a color diversity that, in general, fresh roses don’t have. Depending on the luminosity and relative humidity of the air where the final flower is placed, we guarantee six months shelf-life for these preserved roses. Yet they could last two, three, or even five years.
Turning Gray into Colors
Jaramillo – What is Bellarosa’s relationship with Bayer?
Valenzuela – We have a very close association. Bayer is a reference in innovation in sanitary controls and we have always taken advantage of these innovations. We invest a lot to have good products to apply on our crops and produce the best flowers.
Jaramillo – How does Bellarosa see its future?
Valenzuela – We are currently selling our products in 62 countries. We are very well positioned in Europe, Russia and the United States, which makes 80% of our demand; and we are growing in Asia. We are looking at direct sales models, new marketing channels and to develop e-commerce. Our objective is to continue to expand beyond fresh roses. Our roses are recognized for their quality in all corners of the world, and our goal is to maintain excellent quality and service excellence while expanding into new markets and segments.