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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Flower Show Finds Russia Rosy

At Moscow's VDNKh exhibition center Friday, everything was coming up roses -- Ecuadoran roses, German roses, Dutch roses and even a few Russian ones.

The four-day "Flowers 96" show aims to establish closer business partnerships between foreign importers and domestic producers, according to Nadezhda Grigoriyeva of the exhibition's organizing committee. But mainly it was about roses, which all the traders -- who had come from Holland, Germany, Latin America and other countries -- agreed are Russia's favorites.

According to Andreas Kl--mpen of Straelener Blumenhandel, a Dutch flower trading company, long-stemmed roses account for the lion's share of all flower imports to Russia. And that's no small affair. Kl--mpen said between $1 million and $1.5 million worth of flowers are now sold daily in Moscow alone.

Juan Salazar Sancisi, the ambassador of Ecuador, the country from which the longest and most desirable roses are exported worldwide, said the Russians' love for roses is a longstanding tradition. It is also an increasingly profitable one for Ecuador. "Our exports to Russia doubled last year and we are expecting them to double again reaching 20 percent of all roses exported from Ecuador," the ambassador said.

Kl--mpen said business had been expanding fast ever since his company entered the Russian market in 1993, and that he is now selling cut flowers not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also in Novosibirsk, Krasnodar, Sochi and other cities.

There are certainly logistical problems to be overcome. Kl--mpen said the company can move to new cities only once they become linked to the rest of Europe by direct flights. But overall, the mood among the importers was bullish.

Much of the talk at the flower show was about how to introduce Russians to newer, cheaper varieties of flowers that will encourage them to buy not only for special occasions, but also simply to decorate their houses and apartments.

At the moment, Russians buy on average between 10 and 15 flowers per year, compared for example with Holland where the average is 200 flowers per person per year.

"The biggest money will come from small varieties which we call 'sweethearts,'" said Bernd Helms-Kordes, director of the Kordes and Sons, a German company that used to supply Russia's royal family with flowers.

Kordes and Sons recently bred a new variety of rose that, after they had obtained permission, was named "Naina," in honor of President Boris Yeltsin's wife.

In comparison with their foreign counterparts, the stands of domestic Russian flower growers were modest.

According to Yevgeny Krasnov, an agronomist from the Tsvety, or Flowers, enterprise in Nizhny Novgorod, the costs of growing flowers in a country with as harsh a climate as Russia's are so high that his firm is unlikely to survive much longer.

Krasnov was not even worried about the growing competition from the foreign dealers who are flooding the country with top quality flowers from Latin America and Africa.

"Gazprom will kill us first," he said referring to the high price of gas Tsvety has to pay to heat the four hectares of its greenhouses throughout the winter.