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China roundtable, Priva, De Lier

Dutch horticulture in China at full steam

On the one hand China is the golden goose, on the other the entrepreneur with Eastern ambitions should keep an ear out among different parties that have been active there for years. What are the opportunities and how to grasp them was the topic of a roundtable on China, organised by Holland Horti International and hosted by Priva. A new fair, the Horti China, was also pitched and the ins and outs of the Dutch participation in the Beijing Expo 2019 were presented.

Around 40 people attended the afternoon

Priva has been doing business in China for over a decade, and therefore has a lot to say about it. There was a phone call to Shanghai, with Area Manager Asia Thera Rohling, who gave some do's and don'ts prompted by Rubert Konijn. "The Chinese want to be taken care of with integral solutions," says Thera. "China looks up to us in terms of horticulture and technique and we can really help them. The technique, the greenhouses, the climate control, it's nothing compared to ours." At the same time this can be a pitfall - the pitfall of Dutch arrogance. "There is relatively little high tech. Mid tech is hugely important and you can't miss it. Nothing is done without government approval and you can't avoid it. But," Thera concludes, "you also learn that everything is flexible here. On the one hand the Chinese customer is the most difficult customer in the world. On the other hand the most impossible things seem to succeed and everything seems possible."

One face

An important lesson is that 'together' - however much that word is misused - you can do more. "In our sector there is no Friesland Campina, which can seriously consider a hypothetical offer to serve a city or country of a few million people," says president Jan Omvlee. "This is why we try to form one face, combine existing knowledge and put Dutch horticulture on the global map."

Holland Horti International adds to this ambition of the horticulture sector to position themselves together internationally. The organisation has been running in its current composition for a year and a half now, its strength being that it's carried by entrepreneurs themselves. "8 out of 10 members of management are CEOs of horticulture companies," according to Omvlee.

Oscar Niezen

Horti China 2017
The meeting was closed by the presentation of two separate events, two opportunities at which the Netherlands can present itself: the Horti China 2017 and the Expo Beijing 2019. The Horti China is a new initiative that will be the 'first real nation-wide, B2B horticulture fair in China', according to Oscar Niezen. Oscar has a lot of experience in China, has been active there for Priva, among others, and has his own consultancy practice. One of his recent activities is helping set up this fair, which will take place from 22 to 24 November in the new National Exhibition and Convention Centre in Shanghai. "Based on earlier activities, which will be incorporated into the fair, and based on the many activities that will take place around the event, we estimate that we will be able to get around 450 exhibitors and an audience of around 25,000 in a hall of around 27,000 m2."

Niek Roozen

10 x the Floriade
The second event, the Expo Beijing 2019, is of a very different nature. Think of the coming Expo in Almere, but Chinese. Niek Roozen, closely involved in the Dutch participation in the exposition and tasked with the design of the Dutch entry, adds: "The terrain is 502 ha, over 10 times that of the Expo in Almere. Whilst we were all worried here - 'five years, how are we going to finish it in time?! - they are starting, a year and a half beforehand, to prepare the area." This doesn't mean it's rushed, however, quite the contrary. "They see it as a prestigious mega project like the Olympic Games. It is also certain that millions of people will come, a fact that isn't often a problem in China." Niek treats those in the room to a first: the designs of the Dutch entry. "It will of course include wooden shoes, windmills and cheese. You have to. But what we want most is to show a combination of technique, green and healthy. Air pollution and green have never been as important in China. The visitors have to be able to experience and enjoy the freshness, scents and especially the oxygen in full force, and come out healthier than they entered, in a manner of speaking."
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