Plant and flower exports from the Netherlands to Poland are growing rapidly. Increased sales through retail channels provide a boost, and exporters expect growth for all segments. The economy is doing well, Polish people love flowers and the Dutch floricultural industry can benefit from a stronger focus on this Eastern European market.
By Hermen de Graaf
With International Women’s Day coming up, exporting wholesalers are shifting their focus towards Poland, as this is one of their most important flower days. The Dutch and international floricultural industry have been increasingly aware of Poland for a while now. Warsaw got a Dutch garden, the Flower Expo Poland trade fair held every September has been very successful for a few consecutive years and the Gardenia tree nursery fair held earlier this month, featured a special section for cut flowers for the first time.
On top of all that, the European Florist Championship will be held in Poland in 2020. The Polish bid came in higher than the Dutch one, which is a reward for the development of their floricultural industry and the floristry quality. “Poland should be given more priority in the Flower Council of Holland’s new course”, states Agricultural Counsellor Martijn Homan. “In the beginning of February, the European Commission adjusted its forecast regarding economic growth in Poland for the coming year to 4.2%. Unemployment is going down, salaries are going up and consumer confidence is pretty good”, he explains, referring to the potential of nearly 40 million inhabitants.
Fivefold increase since accession
With last month’s 15% growth, as reported by Floridata, the total value of plant and flower exports to Poland continued to increase. Since Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004, this value has seen a fivefold increase, reaching a total of €230 million. During that period, Poland has gone from thirteenth to sixth place in the export ranking list.
The second highest growth percentage in the past twenty years (22%) was achieved in 2017. The highest (41%) was recorded in the year immediately after the accession and this was partially influenced by administrative changes. The interpretation of the statistical information remains challenging, as Poland is an important transit country.
“The market started to develop after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989”, says Kees van Rijn, director of Bart Kwiaty Polska, subsidiary of Van Duyvenvoorde flowers & plants (‘kwiaty’ means flowers in Polish). He believes that the increased growth of 2017 was caused by the retail channel.
Sales Director Peter Janmaat of Bouquetnet/Celieplant confirms this for the supermarket segment. The increasing number of locations of large, international chains expands the distribution network and the potential number of consumers. When Van Dijk Flora, part of Dutch Flower Group, opened Florapack in 2011, a local branch where flowers, bouquets and plants are processed, it was a sign of their confidence in the Polish discount market. They’ve now got around fifty employees.
According to Paulina Musialka of Hans Visser Plant exports, there’s a growing demand for new pot and garden plants of better quality and in more attractive packaging. “Polish consumers’ salaries are going up and the supermarkets only offer a limited range, so other suppliers are looking for ways to differentiate.”
That isn’t quite how Henk Lamboo, director of Holland Indoor Plants, sees it though. “The Poles are really focussed on price. And the payment morale still leaves a lot to be desired in some places. Increased transparency isn’t always helpful either; it’s causing big changes in the chain.”
Jerek Nalepa of Heemskerk Flowers agrees. “The market is changing rapidly. Globalisation and the internet are bringing different world views and new trading flows.” Van Rijn mentions the ever growing competition from Ecuador, Colombia and Africa. “It’s an art in itself, letting those flows go through the Netherlands and linking them to the Dutch assortment”, says Janmaat.
Strategy and challenges
But Stefan Verhoeff, director of Van Dijk Flora, believes that connecting those trade flows is the most efficient method. “It allows you to add value exactly where needed for your particular segment. It isn’t just about wholesale, but about all the partners in the chain. It’s important to see things from the customer’s point of view and to act upon it. A stronger market orientation is also important.”
Musialka’s tip for Dutch growers is to provide their customers with more offers and more delivery information. Van Rijn on the other hand, is happy about these aspects. “We’re in closer contact with growers these days.” Janmaat is in favour of a wide assortment to strengthen the Dutch market position. Homan feels that in addition to targeted promotion activities, investment is needed for training focussed on product quality and possible applications.
An important aspect for wholesale, exports and imports, is the currency exchange rates of the euro, zloty and dollar. “Favourable rates are just as important as stability though”, says Van Rijn, referring to the impact of political situations. And as the Wikipedia of the Polish floricultural industry, as he calls himself jokingly, he also points out a market restriction: “From the 1st of March, shops are only allowed to open two Sundays per month and from 2020 all shops must close on Sundays. A new policy to help strengthen the Polish identity.”