With an increase of nearly 5%, Dutch plant and flower exports marginally exceeded the € 6 billion record in 2017. According to the VGB and Floridata, exporters expect further growth for the coming year. “Moderate growth though, as the increase in 2017 declined towards the end of the year. But the outlook is definitely positive”, say the floricultural organisations. Two trends that are expected to continue are the rapid increase of sales to Eastern European countries and the wider spread across countries worldwide.
In 2017, December was the only month that showed a decrease in Dutch plant (-0.5%) and flower (-1%) exports compared with 2016. It meant that the cumulative growth stayed just below 5%, but the total export turnover marginally exceeded the € 6 billion mark.
“Breaking records isn’t a goal in itself, but it does substantiate the growth perspective held by the Dutch plant and flower wholesalers”, says VGB director Matthijs Mesken. “Existing trends will continue”, adds Floridata’s Wesley van den Berg. “Especially the increased plant and flower sales to Eastern Europe.” He refers to last month’s exports to Poland and Russia, two top-10 countries that showed a significant increase in December 2017.
The overall export turnover of December was disappointing though, which is contributed to the lower number of trading days compared with 2016. As well as to the bad weather conditions, with frost and snow, which always has a negative impact on the demand for plants and flowers.
Doubled since 2002
Since the introduction of the euro in 2002, the value of plant and flower exports has more than doubled. At that time, the totals also included propagation materials, which growers abroad use to grow consumer-ready plants and flowers. “We’d like to go back to including those in our statistics, so that we can get an even better picture of the international developments regarding the plant and flower trade”, says Van den Berg.
Continuing but modest growth
Given the declining pattern of the turnover growth in 2017, VGB and Floridata expect a modest growth for 2018. Peter de Raadt, general director of Bloom, one of the companies within Dutch Flower Group, is positive about 2018. “Supermarkets will be able to increase their sales after the recent recovery of the economies of our distribution markets”, he explains.
Friso Baatenburg de Jong, commercial director with P. van Dam, shares this optimism. “Nearby markets aren’t yet saturated. And we’ve also noticed an increased interest in plants and flowers from markets further afield.”
Since 2013, an average of 82% of the export turnover was shipped to the top-10 distribution countries, but in 2017 this number went down to 80%. This indicates a wider spread across the more than 120 countries that Dutch plants and flowers are exported to. “The increase to other countries translated into 12%, which is much higher than the average growth”, states Van den Berg. Mesken: “Dispersion strengthens the Dutch position, but also requires more effort from exporters and comes with higher currency risks.”
“We’re ready to help our customers with IT solutions, linking systems and e-commerce”, says Baatenburg de Jong, looking ahead to the coming year. “Plant and flower trade isn’t just about price, quality, assortment and service. Our buyers want IT solutions too, so we’ve invested in expansion, both with regards to logistics and people. All in all, we feel that 2018 is going to be a great year.”
De Raadt highlights the increasing focus on traceability and certification, especially in the supermarket segment, which Bloom supplies to with a combination of flowers from Africa and from the Netherlands. “Sustainability and the wishes and requirements with regards to this theme, are going to be key the coming period.” One point of concern that he mentions, is the availability of flowers, especially from Africa. “Weather conditions still play a crucial role and that’s not something you can protect yourself against”, with which he illustrates the dynamics of the fresh produce wholesale industry, including the plant and flower trade.