I look back on last week's Trade Fair Aalsmeer with a very good feeling. With 20,000 visitors from 50 countries, our fair was a huge success. With 600 participating companies, we were at our maximum and even had to disappoint people. I was there myself for all three days and enjoyed the optimistic and positive atmosphere.
by Steven van Schilfgaarde, CEO FloraHolland
Of course, in the conversations I had with growers and buyers, concerns about the sharply increased costs, especially of energy, came up. This is completely understandable, as entrepreneurs are facing major challenges and uncertain times ahead. But it is good to share concerns and hear how other growers and buyers are meeting them. As always, the sector is showing great resilience under difficult circumstances. In the end, we all benefit from a strong Floriculture sector.
Great entrepreneurial spirit
A great entrepreneurial spirit characterizes our sector, and I also tasted this during the Trade Fair. In my talks, I saw many new initiatives pass by. There is a lot going on internationally, in particular. New products are coming onto the market from Africa in addition to Rose and summer flowers, which are already arriving for the clock as early as December. I heard about new production sites in Portugal and Eastern Europe. In our own country, space is at a premium. In Africa and South America, as in Eastern Europe, for example, there is enough large-scale flower production space available. Internationalization of flower production, in particular, is going faster than expected. Dutch growers are eager to accelerate the energy transition. However, this requires government support. At the moment, this falls short.
Tight labor market
I also heard a lot about new developments from the buyers' side. Not surprisingly, companies are looking critically at costs and opportunities to save. Large buyers see opportunities for more efficient use of space, combined with digitalization and a smarter use of staff. Not only Royal FloraHolland is experiencing the consequences of the tight labor market. Other sectors are not experiencing the concentration of work in the morning that we have traditionally had to deal with. This is precisely why we need to change. Like all other sectors, we in Floriculture also have to deal with an aging population. Not long ago, I spoke to a buyer who was struggling to attract new buyers. Applicants were hiccuping about getting up every day at five o'clock or earlier. All developments necessitate taking a good look at adjustments in the rhythm of the sector and making clear choices about this.
First National Clock
Our strategy responds to these developments in the first place with our global digital platform Floriday. During the Trade Fair, I spoke with a buyer from the US who wants to connect to Floriday. And he's not the only one. Our platform supports our international ambitions. We are also going to do that by modernizing international supply. More distribution of logistic processes on both our side and that of buyers is made possible by One Auctioning. Order picking is a prerequisite for this. After flowers in Naaldwijk, we are gradually rolling this out at all locations.
We do this carefully and therefore step by step. The first National Clock C06 with Cut Anthurium will be extended on 24 November with the product groups Cut Orchid, Alstroemeria, and Strelitzia. This will create a full-fledged and interesting clock for buyers. It is a moment to look forward to. I am confident that it will be a success, but 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating.' In line with this, we are starting a pilot in Eelde with the new Digital Clock, which offers more and different features and thus convenience to buyers.
When implementing our strategy, we always look at what is going well and what can be improved. We do this in co-creation in direction teams and coordination with customer platforms. Sometimes you have to take a step back and then accelerate again. Sometimes, unfortunately, this is accompanied by inconvenience for customers. That is annoying but sometimes unavoidable. Fortunately, I also noticed a lot of support for the necessary changes and an increasingly shared sense of urgency. Based on all input and feedback, we will make final choices next year about the pace of the sector with new trading opportunities for clock and direct. In doing so, the ultimate goal is to come together as strongly as possible and create real clarity on where we are moving. This is really necessary now so that everyone can build on it successfully and with which we together respond to the big challenges we face.
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