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Comment by GB, London

We used to fly the Zimbabwe roses (and some Zambian) to the Dutch auctions; about 100 tonnes a week on Boeing 747s. Ours were cut, trimmed and boxed, and we delivered them to Amsterdam very early in the morning so that they could make the auction at the flower market in Aalsmeer that morning.

The Dutch control the flower producers in Africa as well. We spoke with some friends in Russia who wanted to import the roses directly into Russia, avoiding the Dutch middlemen. They were incensed that the price the Zimbabwean growers earned from the roses was less than a quarter of the delivered price to Russia – an important flower consumer; especially on Women’s Day.

I went to the local growers and offered to buy their roses to send to Russia. I was willing to pay a premium to the Zim growers over what they were getting in Holland.

They met and told me that they couldn’t sell to me directly because the rootstock for their roses came originally from Holland. A clause in their contract for the supply of the rootstock provided a lien on the flowers to the Dutch suppliers. This allowed them only to sell to the Dutch flower association. I tried in Zambia and Kenya. In all three the Dutch had monopolised the purchase of the roses through their control of the rootstock.

The Dutch flower mafia is a specialised licensed monopoly and very hard to compete with, as they have these strong restrictions on Dutch varietal roses from Dutch rootstock. If the Russians can break this monopolistic hold it would be a godsend to the Africans, and save Russia a fortune on the price of flowers.

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