Economic growth, more digitalisation but uncertainty about Brexit

International events respond to ‘new’ Europe
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Economic growth, more digitalisation but uncertainty about Brexit

For greenhouse growers the first two months of the year are characterised by various specialised trade exhibitions. From the large-scale German trade fairs, IPM and Fruit Logistica, to Sival in France and HortiContact in the Netherlands, all the organisers are positive about their upcoming events. Developments in Europe – both within and outside greenhouse horticulture – are followed with interest. That is demonstrated by the broad program of seminars and excursions being offered because the modern trade fair is much more than just a trade fair.

The series opens on Monday 16 to Thursday 19 January with Sival, in Angers, France, where experts and professionals in the pot plant sector can attend four main events. ‘Plant production meetings’ will be held on the first two days of the exhibition during which researchers and other sector representatives will discuss and hold dialogue on new developments. From day 2 to 4 the emphasis is on new technology in the horticultural sector. Various start-ups get the opportunity to present their innovations. Indeed the newcomers account for an extra 600 m2 of stand space this year.

Market developments

As the leading event for the international ornamental sector the IPM in Germany’s Essen, from Tuesday 24 to Friday 27 January, has taken the initiative to conduct an extensive analysis of the European market. The report by Dr. Marianne Altmann concludes that the global flow of goods is in a state of flux. There is a stable demand within the EU while outside the EU there is potential for growth. Also in Germany, the flower and plant market is stable and the continued consumer confidence will secure demand in 2017. The rising prices at retail level promote optimism.
However, this is not true for all links (growers) in the added value chain. Brexit and Russia were two dominant themes throughout 2016 whose effects will only be seen in the long term. It is not wise to assume that everything will end well and all countries would be advised to look for alternative distribution channels and target markets. This can be achieved by working closely with existing trading partners in and outside Europe. Due to this reorientation the flow of goods, together with changing consumer behaviour in a number of EU countries, is likely to alter in 2017. In this respect, the increase in direct deliveries by the major trading centres in the production countries will certainly be a driving force.

Dutch ambassador

The Netherlands plays a prominent role in the above mentioned market analysis made by IPM. So, it is hardly a coincidence that this nation is the partner country for IPM Essen this year. For years the leading international horticultural trade fair has been an important platform for the Dutch green sector; this time about 400 Dutch stand holders will present their expertise and networks under the motto: 'two countries, one passion'.
Furthermore, during the International Horticulture Forum on 26 January the topics discussed by Dutch experts include ‘German-Dutch cooperation along the border’, ‘Logistical developments’, ‘Well-being and sustainability’ and 'Trends, (consumer-) developments and communications’.
The Dutch representation at the fair is jointly organised by the trade associations VGB (Association of wholesalers in floriculture products) and Anthos (flower bulbs and nursery stock), the Dutch commission ‘Top sector horticulture & propagation material’, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs as well as the Dutch Agricultural Council in Berlin.

New sales markets

Fruit Logistica in Berlin, from Wednesday 8 to Friday 10 February, is not only held at the other side of Germany, it focuses mainly on vegetables within the horticultural sector with the emphasis on trade instead of cultivation. This event is one of the world’s leading trade fairs for the horticultural supply chain and here too the organisers focus on market developments over the short and long term.
It appears that the Brussels agricultural policy is facing a changing mind-set on the promotion of fruit and vegetables. Until now, 70% of funds were directed into the internal European market with 30% available for promoting exports to non-EU countries. In future this balance will be reversed, according to Miguel Ceballos Barón of the European Trade Commission. “Future prospects for the industry clearly lie in exports. The promotion of exports will help capture growth markets such as those in Asia, India and Africa.”
The trade fair in Berlin describes itself as the ‘central hub’ of global trade activity and a must for anyone looking to increase their exports. In February 2016 more than 70,000 buyers and visitors from 130 countries from all continents visited the fair. Participation in the upcoming fair is expected to rise again.

Dutch innovation

The winter quartet of European horticultural trade fairs closes with HortiContact in the Evenementenhal Gorinchem, the Netherlands, from Tuesday 14 to Thursday 16 February 2017. This is a new name for a well-established event. The name has been changed because over the last few years the fair has developed from a meeting place for the Dutch horticultural sector into a wider international event. Therefore the Dutch name Tuinbouw Relatiedagen has been replaced with the easier to pronounce ‘HortiContact’.
The fair in Gorinchem (35 km east of Rotterdam) focuses on the Netherlands as a centre of horticultural knowledge. The Dutch greenhouse sector is continually innovating. In addition, its nurseries and knowledge centres openly share new information and experiences with growers all over the world. On Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 February 2017 international growers have the opportunity to get up-to-date with the latest developments in Dutch greenhouses during the HortiContact Tour.

Leading growers

This two-day excursion is jointly organised by HortiContact, Uniglobe Westland Business Travel and In Greenhouses magazine. The program will include: Visits to leading growers (specialised in cut flowers, pot plants and greenhouse vegetables); seminars presented by researchers and lecturers from renowned research centres; and of course a visit to the exhibition.
Visits to greenhouses and research facilities will take place on the first day. The second day takes place at the HortiContact venue where researchers from Wageningen University & Research will make exciting presentations about the fascinating world of plant science and the latest project being undertaken by the university in the field of greenhouse construction, the winter light greenhouse.

Professionalization

Last year the organiser, Evenementenhal, also set itself a new course. With the increasing popularity of the trade fair the organisers took a step to becoming more professional: they introduced a new house style and accompanying logo and the website also got a makeover.
Changes were also made to the online pre-registration. Every visitor now receives a personalised badge with a QR-code. This badge is also linked to Evenementenhal’s new smartphone-app.
Both visitors and exhibitors benefit from this app: Exhibitors can scan the badge so they no longer need to exchange business cards with visitors; visitors receive information through the app on topics that are of interest to him or her so a visit to the exhibition becomes much more efficient.

Summary

In addition to exhibitors and visitors making and maintaining contacts, the horticultural trade shows place more and more emphasis on exchange of knowledge. The events that take place in January and February in Germany, France and Netherlands are increasingly adding seminars, workshops and excursions to the traditional trade show. To be able to follow the trends and developments closely, the show organisers are also initiating market research.

Text: Roger Abbenhuijs

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