For 20 years now Brit Rosaco, a Bulgarian-Dutch joint venture with headquarters in the city of Pleven, has been producing rose rootstocks near the town of Pavlikeni. The company's gardens span some 20 ha and offer 1 million roses of 300 different varieties. Turnover has topped 1 million levs for nine of the past ten years. Partners in the company are CEO Nikolay Pelishatski, production manager Stafan Dimitrov, Dutch cooperative Rosaco and two Dutch citizens.
The company sells its products in the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, the major customers being garden centers and wholesalers supplying DIY stores. The roses are offered on the market under the customers' brands. However, Brit Rosaco sells rootstocks under its own brand in its online store, which is attracting a growing number of hobby gardeners in Bulgaria.
From wild to decorative roses
The growing cycle is two years. Budding is done on wild rose rootstocks between April and November. The plants are then transported to the company's cold store in the town of Byala, where they stay over the winter. Sales are made mainly in April and May. Seven or eight people are involved in the process of packaging and shipping.
Another line of Brit Rosaco's business is grading of rootstocks produced by the Dutch partner. That provides occupation to about 30 people all year round. The rootstocks are transported to Bulgaria and during winter the workers in Byala sort the plants, make bunches and send them to the cooperative's customers. As it is entirely manual work, the procedure is too expensive to be done in the Netherlands, so the cooperative outsources it, Pelishatski says.
With roots in Bulgartsvet
The business originated from the former state-owned company Bulgartsvet in Pavlikeni, which used to outsource growing to local people, buy out the rootstocks and export them to Europe. The company went bankrupt in the early 1990s. Pelishatski's father-in-law, who was involved in the business, made a connection with a large Dutch trader and in 2004 they established the joint venture. The following year the company won financing from the EU pre-accession funds and purchased the cold store in Byala. It also built a workshop for packaging and grading and launched the business model that is still used today.
For ten years Brit Rosaco has had rose growing agreements with David Austin Roses in the UK. However, logistics became complicated after Brexit. David Austin died and his heirs changed the trade policy, concentrating production in the Untied Kingdom. This was the last year that rose rootstocks were exported to Britain, Pelishatski says.
The partners plan to preserve the existing business model in future and keep the size of production, rather than risk with expansion. That will give them flexibility if the market gets tight. Besides, there is the constant problem of workforce shortage.
Costs are also increasing. Last year the company raised wages by 20%. However, there are no problems with sales, as competitive production in Europe has been decreasing. There are only four or five such fields with 1 million roses in Europe, says Pelishatski.