ESSEN, Germany: The Netherlands will be represented by around 400 companies at the 2017 IPM (Internationale Pflanzen Messe, or International Horticulture Trade Fair) in Essen, Germany – cementing the close relationship between the Netherlands and Germany in the floriculture industry, founded on decades of doing business.
It was because of this history that the Netherlands was selected as the ‘partner country’ for this year’s event – which, with a theme of ‘Zwei Länder, eine Leidenschaft’ (two countries, one passion), also hints at the neighbours’ shared business interests in the field of floriculture.
Traditionally, Dutch floriculture exporters and bulb and tree growers have used the IPM in Essen to strengthen ties with Germany. The latest export figures show just how important trade with neighbouring Germany is for the Netherlands: Germany spends 1,5 billion euros on flowers and plants, 119 million on bulbs and 400 million on trees from the Netherlands annually. Although competition from other countries is on the rise, German buyers still like to purchase their flowers from the other side of the Dutch border.
A survey of traders who do a lot of business with Germany quickly explains why. ‘The German market views us as a top producer. The Netherlands offers exactly what German customers are looking for. What’s more, in the regions where we are active – central and southern Germany – there are fewer growers, so we step in to fill the gap in the market’, explains Erik Jaap Kroone from Nijssen Junior. Chris Buurman from Bemmel-based company Buurman Planten continues: ‘We supply to the top end of the market. Luxury garden centres know that they can’t compete on price. So they set themselves apart by offering different products, or different colours – which we can supply from the Netherlands’.
Eye for quality
The German eye for quality is a well-recognised characteristic of the market. ‘The Germans are very quality-conscious’, says Willem de Groot, who is responsible for relationships with German customers at bulb specialist JUB Holland. ‘We have German customers who demand tulips in size 12+, the largest size available. And there are plenty of other German customers who don’t want bulbs smaller than size 11 or 12′. Hans van Rijsewijk, commercial director at arboriculture company Van den Berk in Sint-Oedenrode, continues: ‘German customers are professional and strict. A German customer will always arrive right on time for a meeting’.
On the flip side, the Germans praise the Dutch for their ability to innovate. ‘The Dutch are highly innovative’, says Norbert Engler, director of EPS, a company located just over the German border in Kevelaer. ‘The Netherlands sets high environmental standards too. New horticultural products are launched onto the market faster than in Germany, partly because the Netherlands has a stronger agricultural lobby’.
Germany as an ‘upcoming market’
According to Erik Jaap Kroone, the German floriculture market is, in some ways, still an upcoming market. “We perhaps think that Germans are more conservative than they really are. But more flowers are sold in Germany than here in the Netherlands. There are different products, different colours and, perhaps most importantly, products of different levels of quality in the shops. And although Germany might not be ahead of the latest trends, it is a country that shouldn’t be underestimated. There is a brand-new generation of florists emerging with an eye for fashion and a keen sense of trends.”