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NL: Export flowers and plants towards new record of €6 billion

The export of flowers and plants from the Netherlands is climbing this year to a new record of € 6 billion. Floridata and the VGB (Association of Wholesale Traders of Ornamental Plant Products) base this on the results up to and including November. "The outlook for 2018 is good, although there are also bottlenecks", according to the organizations. Cooperation, digitization, sustainability and positioning are important themes in the flower and plant wholesale. The Netherlands plays an important role internationally as a versatile and future-proof trading partner.

5% increase in turnover of RFH
At the same time, things are also going well for Royal FloraHolland. Their turnover increased by 5% last month, compared to the same month a year earlier. This increase is explained by a decrease in the supply of small-flowered roses from Africa, which meant that the pricing of other cut flowers was better. At the same time the auction sees a huge export increase to Russia (no less than 40%), more product went to Poland and the Czech Republic and the export to Germany was a bit disappointing. It is also striking that the export on the UK was the same as last year. Furthermore, both the turnover and the price of flowers increased by 10% and there are worries in the orchid sector about a sharp fall in prices (14%). More information about FloraHolland's turnover can be found here (in Dutch).

In November, flower and plant exports from the Netherlands rose by 4% to € 455 million. Flowers (+ 7%) grew again faster than plants (+/- 0%) and that is a structural trend this year. Until the end of November, the export value is close to € 5.6 billion. "If the exporters realize the same turnover as in December last year, they just pass the historic milestone of € 6 billion," reports Wesley van den Berg from Floridata. Director Matthijs Mesken of the VGB regards that as a special achievement. "The longer you are at the top, the greater the efforts that are needed to maintain that leading position. The international competition does not stop," he concludes. Dutch exporters are expecting growth again in 2018 at total level.
"In case of stronger competition between the companies in the floriculture cluster, cooperation in sub-areas becomes more important". This is said by CEO Marco van Zijverden of Dutch Flower Group, which as market leader achieved an above-average growth. He refers in that way to themes such as sustainability, digitization and positioning. "Cooperation is also becoming increasingly important in our segment. This is necessary because of the thin margins, but you also can develop new business models from it," says Joost Leeuwenburg of L&M. This wholesaler operates as an import and sales organization for exporters and flower growers.
"Sustainability is one of the biggest challenges in the floriculture sector. The retail sector is asking for it more and more and Lemkes wants to be at the forefront because the world needs it", according to Managing Director Michiel de Haan of Royal Lemkes, with plants as a base specializing in large-scale retail. Van Zijverden refers to the recently signed Sustainability Manifesto, with the Acceleration Initiative certification on environment and social aspects, where Royal Lemkes is also one of the initiators. This is linked to the FSI (Floriculture Sustainability Initiative). "Sustainability in the floricultural sector can and must be accelerated. We want to trade at least 90% sustainable flowers and plants in 2020."
Further digitization in the flower and plant wholesale is a condition and an opportunity to strengthen the position. By now, more than twenty participants have joined the Blueroots platform that was introduced in November. Dutch Flower Group is co-initiator with FleuraMetz, and Royal Lemkes and L&M also make up the founding fathers. "A new partnership in a relatively new area, which originates from the base, is a special aspect of the ornamental plant wholesale," says Mesken of the VGB. "That ICT has such an essential function is an important part of the positioning for our sector."
"As the floriculture sector, we need to improve that positioning in order to promote the influx of new employees," says van Zijverden. Projects that contribute to a stronger positioning, he mentions, are the now operating World Horti Center in the Westland and the planned FloriWorld in Aalsmeer. "Every day about 1,200 students at the World Horti Center, who are introduced to horticulture there, is fantastic. A good example of cooperation between business, government and education of which we are one of the founding partners. And that is why we are also a founding partner in FloriWorld, which is becoming a tourist and innovative attraction", he explains. Royal Lemkes is also one of the partners in FloriWorld, De Haan adds.
Good perspective 2018
De Haan expects a similar growth in floricultural exports in 2018 as this year. "Economically, it goes well again in most countries in Europe. Moreover, green is popular again especially in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. These countries are trendsetting. If this trend continues, I expect further scarcity in the plant segment", he observes. Leeuwenburg expects extra growth in Eastern European markets. "The end has not been reached yet." According to Floridata, the export of flowers and plants to Poland increased this year again by a remarkable 22%. The growth in this now sixth sales destination for Dutch green exporters is structural. Van Zijverden: "Russia is also doing pretty well too. England is worrisome. Not only because of the lower conversion rate of the pound, but mainly because of the possible obstacles that new customs rules will present. "A strong Brexit can seriously frustrate the export to England, with a share of 14% (€ 772 million) the second buyer for the Netherlands. Germany (+ 4% to € 1.6 billion to end of November) is the list leader and France (+ 2% to € 712 million) the third. In addition to the UK, Sweden (-1% to € 163 million) is the second country in the top 10 export destinations where exports are shrinking. The top 10 accounts for 80.5% of export sales this year, which was slightly higher last year (81.8%) and in 2015 (82.5%). "That indicates more spread and that is important for the sector," Van den Berg states. Mesken points out that this also requires more effort from wholesalers.

The Top-10 destinations total export value of flowers and plants from the Netherlands up to and including October 2017 in euros and a more extensive analysis is available for VGB members and Floridata participants via or This includes attention for Brexit and other developments in 2017.

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