Holland might be famous for its tulips, but Dubai could soon be known for its roses. Since last February, three million roses have been exported from Advanced Horticulture's farm - just outside Al Hayer, which is about halfway between Dubai and Al Ain - to Holland.

This might sound strange, but flower growing in the UAE is turning lucrative.

The Advanced Horticulture farm, which has four hectares of greenhouses brimming with roses, has the capacity to produce eight million stems a year.

On average a rose stem costs Dh1.25, so sales from the farm can reach Dh10 million a year, explained Roman Ruvynskyy, farm manager.

Demand for UAE-produced roses is now so high that exports to Holland have ceased.

"Now we have stopped because we get better prices for them here. It is a good market here and we get to save on the freight," said Ruvynskyy.

Imports from other countries, that used to supply the UAE with roses, have decreased. And it looks as though UAE's flower growing industry will continue to gather strength.

Advanced Horticulture, the emirate's largest rose producer, plans to expand in about a year.

Local demand for UAE-produced roses is now so high. © Gulf News
"My plan is to have 300 to 400 hectares - I have discussed this with the auction market in Holland and there is a market for it. Before that happens we have to check that this place is going okay because (to expand) we are talking about big money."

The farm could produce about Dh1 billion worth of flowers a year if the extension plans come to fruition. Exports would then be sent to the Far East, Holland and Australia.

"This is a clean country, and this is very important for flowers. People are always searching for new places to produce roses and one of the places is the UAE.

"It is good because wages for labour are low, so is the price of electricity and the strange weather is not so bad for roses."

Because greenhouses are in the middle of the desert, roses are not touched by humidity. This is good, explains Ruv-ynskyy.

"Because it is a dry climate, there is not a big cost to reduce temperature. But if humidity is high, it is expensive because you need to use chillers and air conditioning."

The greenhouses are kept comfortable with water pipe cooling.

UAE-produced roses. © Gulf News
Closer to Dubai, at Sweihan, Walt Verweij is the farm production manager for the National Horticultural Co's (NHC) property. At the site, which has four hectares of greenhouses, roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, liliums and gypsophylas are grown.

The company, one of the five Falcon Group entities established by Al Hamed Enterprises, is part of a joint venture with France's Dassault, set up as part of UAE's Offsets programme.

Flowers from the farm are marketed under the 'Shams' brand. Exports were sent to France and Middle East countries until a fire hit the farm a few months ago.

"At the moment we are only doing local sales - we had a problem on our site - our packing house was burnt down so we are restructuring the whole building. We hope to be back in full swing of the operation by the end of this year," Verweij said.

"We had been exporting to France and Japan, but lately there have been no exports outside the UAE. At the moment we have one hectare of roses with about ten varieties. Other than that we grow about ten types of flowers."

Apparently, yearly production at the farm is expected to average one million flowers per greenhouse. The company has a ten hectare expansion in the pipeline.

By expanding, it is anticipated the company will be able to produce more, develop new partnerships with both wholesalers and retailers worldwide, and continue to optimise its product to meet world market demands.

Verweij says the advantage of farming flowers in the UAE is the weather. While cold weather hits other parts of the world, the UAE basks in constant sunlight.

But it can be quite expensive growing flowers here due to the hot weather, he added.

"It can be expensive if you have to control the climate - that is not easy with temperatures reaching 40-50 degrees. But in winter we can grow nearly everything."

Verweij admits the flower growing business in the emirates is a new industry but has a lot of promise.

"We would like to see our flowers being used in the UAE and also being exported. There is a lot of potential with local sales," he added.