A number of phalaenopsis growers were facing dramatic price drops at the end of last year. However, with some important flower days ahead, the demand for phalaenopsis has gone up again. The popularity of green plants on the other hand, has been soaring for a while now. These were just two of the trends that we spotted at IPM in Essen.
By Hans Neefjes and Peter van Leth
Wojciech Wegrzynek of JMP Flowers has no doubts about the current phalaenopsis sales: things are going well. “You mean you didn’t experience any decline during the past couple of months?”, we ask. “No”, is his brief and adamant reply.
The salesman of the Ptaszek family’s company is aware that phalaenopsis prices were at a low in the Netherlands towards the end of 2017. His explanation: “There are too many companies that are looking for quick money, they’re just dumping products on the market. They don’t care about quality. At the same time, there are a few companies that produce the highest quality and focus on the higher segment. They’re the ones who make the Ferraris of their industry. There are definitely a few of those top producers among the Dutch phalaenopsis growers. We are also committed to excellence and we listen carefully to our customers. We would never produce something based on a quick brainstorm session between our salespeople and marketeers.”
JMP Flowers has 10 ha of phalaenopsis in Poland. They’ll be adding at least 2 more hectares later this year. The company sells their plants directly, through 14 sales points and wholesalers in Poland. They’ve also got a sales office in Russia.
The conversation with this Polish salesman confirmed what was mentioned by a few Dutch phalaenopsis growers at the trade fair. With differentiated products, good quality and tailor-made solutions, it’s still possible to have a thriving business with phalaenopsis. Salesman Ted van Kester of Opti-flor nurseries: “We only sell directly, we don’t do anything through the clock. Clock prices fell dramatically at the end of 2017, but that hardly influenced the sales of our unique concepts.”
Anyone dealing with mainstream products however, could feel the impact of the disappointing price formation through the clock, including in the intermediary services. But the price differences between the products of the players in the various quality segments in the market stayed the same. The price drop was the biggest for white phalaenopis because of the sudden increase of the supply through the clock. The last couple of years have shown that the clock can handle around 10% of the entire phalaenopsis production without any problems. But when it’s more, prices fall accordingly. “I’m sure that Ter Laak Orchids is already selling the plants that will leave their greenhouse in 2019. They don’t take chances with the clock”, said a phalaenopsis grower who preferred to remain anonymous.
There are plenty of myths regarding prices, numbers and withdrawal, according to Cor Middelkoop of Royal FloraHolland, especially when sales aren’t great. Phalaenopsis trading prices for the upcoming flower days are positive, so people are pleased. That includes growers of other plants. Phalaenopsis is one of the market’s price setters. However, that doesn’t guarantee a place on the shelves it turned out in 2017, when the number of campaigns for the popular green plants continued to increase.
A slogan traditionally used in the Netherlands in January is: ‘Christmas tree out, green plants in’ and this seems more applicable than ever before in 2018. For the past two years, the enthusiasm for green plants hasn’t been limited to the beginning of the year though; it’s been present all year round. Reijm nurseries from Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel for example, said that their sales went through the roof the first weeks of January. A number of plant types even sold out altogether, according to Pim Vente. It was a much heard comment at IPM this year with regards to certain green plants, such as monstera.
Supply from Costa Rica
Alexander Roman had a different story, though. The representative of the national promotional organisation Essential Costa Rica indicated that they have no shortages, neither in numbers nor in diversity. Arturo Fernàndez Alvarado of Greenplants, grower of young dracaena deremensis plants, confirmed this. Both men admitted that during the economic crisis, many of the Costa Rican young plant nurseries ceased to exist, but they said that the remaining growers have no problem responding to the increasing demand.
Growers of young phoenix roebellini plants were of course the ones that suffered the biggest blow. But that’s because this crop is considered a host plant for xylella fastidiosa, making it prohibited for European imports. Roman hopes that the import ban will be lifted soon, but he isn’t too optimistic: “We’ve been trying to prove that imports are safe through research and testing. It’s up to the EU now to believe it.”
Guatemalan grower Miguel Gutierrez, owner of Organik-A, had yet another story. The grower of various crops of young plants came to IPM without a single product. Simply because he had sold out, just like all his colleagues, according to the grower. “I’m here to negotiate higher prices with my buyers”, said Gutierrez jokingly.
Sisira Karunaratne of Asian Cuttings from Sri Lanka also said they run out of stock on a regular basis, both with regards to young plants and cut foliage.
“The time it takes to get the numbers, differs greatly for the various tropical plants. Yucca plants are faster and easier to grow than dracaena. The latter take at least two years, longer even when it concerns a new variety”, explained Remco Hill, commercial manager of STP imports and exports.
He doesn’t mind though, that the market is shifting from a demand market to a supply market. “It means that the wheat will be separated from the chaff. The fact that quality is more and more becoming a limiting factor is a good thing. We’ll be left with the professionals, as there aren’t too many people who would start out in this business with no previous experience these days.”
In order to be able to meet the demand, the company either outsources the finishing phase to Turkish partners or has propagation and finishing done by the same supplier. This way, they also spread their risk.
Gutierrez, Karunaratne and Alvarado all expanded significantly so that they could meet the growing demand. And looking ahead, they expect further growth for the next two years, too.