On 21 March, Iranians worldwide celebrated the Persian New Year, or Nowruz. For this occasion, we asked flower and plant grower Ruhollah Mahmoudi Meymand from Yazd-based Khatam Rose to comment on the current state of ornamental horticulture in Iran.
Nobody does New Year quite like the Iranians do. The Nowruz festival, since 2019 officially registered on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, combines good food, new clothes, concerts, fairs, quality time with loved ones and other celebratory activities.
Occupying pride of place amid the many festive celebrations is the Haft-Seen, a table decked with seven (haft in Farsi language) symbolic items and all beginning with the letter S- (seen in Farsi). Primary items include somaq (sumac berries), samanu (a pudding made of wheat germ), seeb (apple) and sombol (hyacinth) and several other flowers. Also frequently spotted at the Haft Seen are a coin, candles, and a bowl with goldfish, each of them symbolising different things such as health, tolerance, nature, greenery, wealth, and light.
For cut flower and houseplant grower Ruhollah Mahmoudi Meymand, the end of the year is a time for reflection. His thoughts filled with positive memories. He says, “It has literally been a good year for the roses. I must say that we have had a very good year in terms of sales.” The 44-year-old grower was born in Yazd Province. As a business owner, he wears many hats – from CEO to crop expert, from sales manager to market watcher.
Commenting on the state of the rose trade he says that, typically, there is a sharp decline in the market in the month leading up to Nowruz. “People first clean their houses and repair or replace broken things. Purchasing cut roses always comes with a delay, so our Nowruz orders tend to come at the last minute. But currently, the market is performing well. Not all people decorate their Haft-Seen with blooms such as hyacinth, roses and tulips, but it is safe to say the holiday fuels a boom in cut flower sales.”
Each Nowruz, Mahmoudi Meymand’s thoughts automatically transition to the beginning when he was a novice flower grower. “The first time I planted roses was near a derelict and abandoned house. Old houses in Iran are often made of straw and clay. I reused the soil and plant material in the raised rose beds when razing the building. I had timed my first crop of roses for the Nowruz holiday. But I was new to rose growing, and unfortunately, all flowers incurred severe delay in blooming. By the time we began harvesting the first flowers, it was already one month after Nowruz, when demand was very low. So, Nowruz taught me a big lesson in terms of growing techniques and crop scheduling.”
From an early age, Mahmoudi Meymand loved nurturing and growing seeds into plants, taking an interest in agriculture, land use, and land degradation in particular. “I studied desertification at Yazd University, at the Faculty of Natural Resources and Agriculture. Here I learnt the basics of greenhouse farming, growing cucumbers and other summer vegetables in the soil. Soon I developed an interest in growing other plants in new and more sophisticated soil-less growing media. That has made me the greenhouse rose grower I am today.”
Mahmoudi Meymand’s cut flower and plant nursery Khatam Rose opened in 2005, harvesting its first roses one year later.
Today, he has 43,000m² of land, of which 20,000m² is greenhouse growing spaces. Around 45 employees harvest 2.5 million rose stems per year.
Mahmoudi Meymand grows his roses year-round. “The production is relatively constant throughout the year because there is always a basic demand for our flowers. Of course, we do our best to schedule and increase output in the run-up to Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Girl’s Day, and Nurse’s Day because flower gifting is much more frequent.” [Note from the editor: The floral holidays are not fixed within the Persian calendar and change dates every year. For example, Girls’ Day is on 1 June 2022, and Nurse’s Day is on 30 November 2022. In 2023, Mother’s Day will fall on 13 January and Father’s Day on 4 February.]
In Iran, the year divides into four months of mourning (Muharram, Safar, Ramadan are three months of religious mourning ceremonies and the sum of different days that are the anniversary of death and mourning is almost one month).
“Once the mourning months have passed, the new season of weddings and celebrations can occur. People usually hold happy occasions during these months. We try to steer our production so that in the months of mourning, production is low, and in the rest of the months (weddings and special days), it is high so that we can harvest more stems.”
Mahmoudi Meymand determines his roses’ prices daily. He considers certain key factors, including assessing overall product quality in stem length and bud size, factoring in daily output, approaching floral holidays and harvesting dates, understanding price elasticity, and keeping track of pricing at flower markets across the country. In early March, rose prices per stem at the grower’s level averaged between 10 and 15 thousand tomans (about 30-50-Eurocents).
Climate resilience is vital when determining what roses to grow. The company’s current range includes ‘Angelina’, ‘Ashram’, ‘Avalanche’, ‘Candela’, ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Polar Star’, ‘Red Desire’, ‘Revival’, ‘Vintage’, ‘Peach Avalanche’, ‘Samurai’, ‘Silver Rado’, ‘Sorbet Avalanche’, ‘Sovereign’, ‘Top Secret’, ‘Utopia’, ‘Cherry Avalanche’, ‘Deep Water’, ‘Dolce Vita’, ‘Fiesta’, ‘Green Gene’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Jumila’, ‘Maritim’, ‘Ocean Song’, ‘Paloma’, ‘Sweet 4Tune’, ‘Belarus’, ‘4GoodYellow’, and ‘4Good Red. Each of these 30 cultivars can adapt themselves to cold nights and extreme heat – summer temperatures in Yazd quickly rise to 40 degrees Celsius.
Understanding customer preferences, Mahmoudi Meymand says, is also important when selling roses. “Typically, the Iranian customer has high expectations. They like tall stems, large-sized flower heads, with red, white, and pink being firm favourites colour-wise. More recently, I also noticed a demand for bicolours and soft tones such as jasmine and light purple.”
As much as he would like, Mahmoudi Meymand cannot plant newer varieties from Western European breeders due to political mandates and sanctions on the country. “For almost three years now, I have hardly had any access to new varieties and quality bulbs to grow our crops. Sanctions make it extremely difficult to transfer money. So, purchasing quality fertiliser, for example, is also an issue.”
Khatam Rose is also a producer of Gypsophila, which in Farsi goes by the moniker Dutch brides. In capitalising on the global houseplant boom, Mahmoudi Meymand has lately begun growing houseplants such as Ficus elastica ‘Variegata’, Ficus lyrata, Ficus ‘Altissima, Áralia (green and variegated), Philodendron, Asparagus, a variety of palm trees such as Chamadora and Areca, Hibiscus, Caladium, Schefflera, Pothos and miniature roses.
Mahmoudi Meymand grows his roses hydroponically using raised gutters filled with pure perlite. He kicked off production with a mix of 70 per cent cocopeat and 30 per cent perlite. However, as cocopeat grew scarcer and more expensive, he switched to perlite only.
As in all parts of the world, keeping greenhouse roses healthy comes with challenges. Spider mites and thrips are the most common pests, with some whiteflies, aphids and mealybugs appearing in an advanced growing stage. Botrytis and root fungi are also among the dreaded rose diseases.
Much to his disappointment Mahmoudi Meymand cannot apply any biological control simply because pest-specific predators are not available on the market in Iran. “You can release a biological control agent against spider mite, but if a predatory mite against thrips is unavailable, you will be eventually forced to use chemicals against thrips. You will kill the predatory mite against the spider mite in such a situation.”
Adapting to the dramatic range in temperatures in Iran brings another set of challenges. Mahmoudi Meymand elaborates, “In summer, we use a pad and fan cooling system as well as a misting system to provide moisture. The length of greenhouse bays is usually between 30 to 35 metres so that the pad and fan can adjust the greenhouse’s temperature. We grow our roses at an altitude of 2,400 metres in the mountainous range southwest of the city of Yazd.
Yazd self is typically a desert city, with summer temperatures up to 50°C. At the start of spring, we use the pad and fan system. In late April and May, we reduce the amount of light intensity by applying whitewash on the roof and by shade curtains to improve the performance of the fan and pad. During this time of year, there is 35,000 to 40,000 lux of light for the flowers. The fan and pad do their cooling work. The fogging system also comes to the aid of the fan and pad in addition to providing the required humidity at the peak of the heat.”
The cold season runs from December to February. Then different heating systems are used, such as radiators, heat exchangers, and hot air furnaces. “In my greenhouse complex, one unit is equipped with a heating system (radiant heat), and for the other units, I use a hot air furnace system. Usually, on cold nights of the year, when the outside temperature drops to 12 to 13 degrees below zero, we keep the temperature inside the greenhouse up to 16 or 17 degrees, which is suitable for producing roses. Energy prices in Iran are reasonable, so contrary to our fellow rose growers in Europe, electricity and energy costs are not such a big issue.”
Iran is an arid and semi-arid country. Yazd province finds itself almost in the very centre of the country and in the heart of the desert.
“Water is very, very valuable here. However, collecting and storing rainwater in retention ponds is not a common practice. Groundwater is our primary water source. Also, to save water consumption, we catch the drain water from the growing media to reuse it in the greenhouse cooling systems (pads). It is safe to say that water scarcity is the most limiting factor in our business.
“The increasing drought will complicate operations for farmers and greenhouse growers. But I am convinced that people need flowers and ornamental plants because of the joy they bring.
“Another problem that comes to my mind when looking to the future is the issue of inflation and the lack of stable commodity prices in our country. Also, class differences may occur in the future, and people battered by the economic crisis will no longer be able to afford flowers in their daily lives. I fear that a time will come when flower prices will not increase in correlation with inflation, causing the income of greenhouse owners to decrease.”
Mahmoud Meymand’s customers are predominantly florists. He explains, “In Yazd, I own a small-scaled flower market, and here I deliver flowers to florists and retailers. Some of our roses sell in Yazd province, some trade in neighbouring and distant provinces. When the market is suitable and balanced, some of our products are exported to Georgia, Turkmenistan and Iraq.
The Covid-19 crisis hit Iran early on in the pandemic. What is the most important lesson Mahmoud Meymand learnt during the global health crisis? “In Iran, there’s a saying, “the name of shame won’t last for a tough year”, meaning that we should use our reserves from good years during bad years and leave the bad days behind with patience and endurance. I followed more or less this path.
I have been growing roses for 16 years but have never experienced this situation. The conundrum was to throw my flowers away or to give them away. But under no circumstances did I want to give up production. I realised how customers had trusted my company throughout the years, supporting me. So, I decided that Covid-19 was the moment to do something in return. During the early months of the pandemic, everything was closed except for the supermarkets, where I placed my buckets at the entrance. Sometimes people would even pay me for the flowers, even though I offered them free. It has been a great experience. People told me that they were locked up in their homes, feeling lonely and bored and then one of the few things that made them feel good was my flowers.
Once the country started opening, sales quickly picked up, and the market almost returned to its original state. However, the situation was different from the rest of the world because Iran was slightly behind in its vaccination programme. But overall, I’m satisfied with the current sales and production numbers. And even more importantly, Corona is slightly under control now.
Mahmoudi Meymand’s passion for the flower industry shines through as he shares how much he likes connecting with colleagues. As a long-standing member of the Iranian Society for Ornamental Plants (ISOP), Mahmoud Meymand has developed a network of industry peers to share ideas and research findings.
He concludes by saying that, with all due respect to European growers- Iran deserves a little more credit for being a country with an agricultural and horticulture tradition deeply anchored within its society.
Iran boasts the right experience and expertise in growing cut flowers. Tuberose and Iranian tulips are among the most famous in the world.
Quick facts about rose growing in Iran
Mahmoud Meymand estimates Iran has between 250 to 300 people who dedicate themselves to rose growing, of which 150 to 200 run truly professional greenhouses across the country.
Iran’s rose growers are predominantly in the Tehran province, Yazd province, Fars province, Isfahan province, Kerman province, Kermanshah province, and Mahallat city of Markazi province.
In terms of cultivated land, Mahmoud Meymand assumes there are around 150 hectares of greenhouses for cut rose production (excluding growers who grow in the soil and out in the open).
This article was first published in the April 2022 FloraCulture International.
Message to our esteemed readership in Iran
( FCI ) مجله بین المللی فلورا کالچر
مجله بین المللی فلورا کالچر ( FCI ) به عنوان یک نشریه تخصصی صنعت گل و گیاهان زینتی پیشرو در تجارت به تجارت ( B2B ) است که در سال 1990 تاسیس شد و به صورت نسخه های چاپی و الکترونیکی با تعداد خوانندگان 117000 نفری در سراسر جهان منتشر می شود. این نشریه به تولید کنندگان گلهای شاخه بریده، گلهای گلدانی گلدار و برگ زینتی، برگساره ای، گیاهان پوششی، گیاهان چند ساله، درختان، بوته ها، بذرها، گیاهان جوان و پیازی ها سرویس می دهد.
مجله FCI منبع اصلی اطلاعات برای تولید کنندگان است، اما از زمانی که انجمن بین المللی تولیدکنندگان باغبانی (AIPH) این مجله را در می 2018 خریداری کرد، خوانندگان آن به طور قابل توجهی گسترش یافتند و شامل اصلاح کنندگان گیاهان زینتی، مدیران سالن های حراج، عمده فروشان گل، خرده فروشان حوزه باغ، مدیران سوپرمارکت ها، گلفروشان، ارائه دهندگان خدمات، محققان، کارمندان کارهای عمومی، دولت ها و مقامات محلی، ارائه دهندگان خدمات لجستیک، مدیران املاک و محوطه سازان فضای سبز می باشد. مجله FCI شهرت زیادی برای گزارش دقیق و واضح از نمایشگاه ها، کنفرانس ها و سایر رویدادهای صنعتی و همچنین مصاحبه های عمیق و ویژگی های مربوط به محصولات زینتی خاص، فناوری، اصلاح و تکثیر، بسترها و کشتهای پایدار، مزایده ها و حراج گل؛ بسته بندی و گزینه های جایگزین پلاستیک، حمل و نقل و زنجیره سرد، بیوفیلیا و برنامه ریزی شهر سبز دارد. هر نسخه از FCI دارای مقالات کاملی از یک کشور و صنعت باغبانی خاص آن است.
مجله FCI یک مجله خوش استیل و شیک هست، در حالی که لحن کلی آن آموزنده و متمرکز بر صنعت است. به ویژه ترکیبی از عکاسی حرفه ای با سبک روزنامه نگاری واضح، قابل دسترسی و جذاب دارد.
مجله FCI در ستون های ماهانه خود، از همکاران خارجی آگاه دعوت می کند تا در مورد رویدادها و سایر موضوعات اصلی تأثیرگذار بر صنعت باغبانی بحث کنند.
این نشریه از زمان راه اندازی آن در 1990 بارها تغییر کرده است. آخرین تغییر عمده در سال 2021 اتفاق افتاد که وب سایت آن با ظاهری به روز شده و ویژگی های جدید دوباره راه اندازی شد.
مجله FCI مستقیماً به افراد و از طریق انجمن های شریک FCI به صورت ماهیانه از قاره آمریکا تا استرالیا به دو صورت چاپی و دیجیتالی توزیع می شود. به عنوان مثال، AmericanHort، Asocolflores در کلمبیا، انجمن گیاهان زینتی ایران (ISOP) )، انجمن تجارت باغبانی HTA در انگلستان، OAIB (اتحادیه صادر کنندگان گیاهان و محصولات زینتی ترکیه)، OPF مکزیک، انجمن نهالستانها و فضای سبز استرالیا ؛ همه انجمن های شریک FCI هستند.
سازمان منتشر کننده مجله FCI، نهاد صدور مجوز برگزاری نمایشگاههای بین المللی حوزه باغبانی یعنی انجمن بین المللی تولیدکنندگان باغبانی (AIPH) است. این سازمان دارای انجمن های عضوی است که هدف اصلی آنها حمایت از توسعه گل و گیاهان زینتی است.
به طور خلاصه، مجله FCI از طریق گستردگی جهانی، تجارت شما را قادر می سازد تا برند خود را ارتقا داده و محصولات و خدمات شما را در بازارهای هدف جدید و موجود معرفی نماید.