Flower industry fraternity meet in Netherlands for the International Floriculture Trade Fair

Flower industry fraternity meet in Netherlands for the International Floriculture Trade Fair

Flowers growers, buyers, traders and suppliers met in November for the 12th edition of the International Floriculture Trade Fair (IFTF) held at Vijfhuizen, Netherlands and organized by HPP Exhibitions. The fair, the second post Covid, took place in the wake of mixed feelings from industry players ranging from optimism as the sector continues to exhibit remarkable resilience from new shocks like the pandemic and conflicts, but jitters at a time when bottlenecks including the exorbitant freight charges and lack of capacity coupled with weather changes and rising prices of key inputs such as fertilizers continue to take a toll on the industry’s growth.

Close to 300 exhibitors from over 25 countries and visitors from more than 115 countries took part in one of the largest floriculture fairs in the world.

A bulk of the exhibitors were drawn from Kenya, Ecuador and Colombia with the increase in exhibition numbers attributed to rising interest by growers and exporters to expand their market portfolio and cement their bases in areas where they have footprints.

One of the highlights of this year’s IFTF was the international conference “Flowers by Sea”, which took place a day before the exhibition. It congregated more than 400 attendees drawn across the supply chain who were keen on discussing the transition of transporting flowers by air to freighting them by sea. A panel of eight industry peers were set to answer questions from the audience about the crucial subject that according to some will shake the foundation of the world cut flower industry. The conference was first held in Nairobi in June at IFTEX. Its roaring success inspired the second one at IFTF. According to experts at the fair, Kenya can tap into new markets with the sea transport that have previously not been fully exploited due to the limited space and high airfreight prices. They include China, Australia, Japan and USA among others.

Growers and exporters from the top three producing countries have had to contend with a cocktail of challenges and IFTF offered an opportunity to deliberate on them.

In Ecuador, growers are struggling with a lack of availability and high prices of air freight. In Colombia on the other hand, La Niña is causing an unusually long period of rainfall affecting the quality of the crop, and due to the current confusing political situation, some growers or investors have decided to wait with executing their expansion plans.
The Kenya flower industry has weathered an array of storms to remain resilient. From Post pandemic jitters, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, freight costs, high cost of energy and inputs among other issues. The sector continues to post a mixed bag of fortunes even as industry players remain optimistic. Growers and exporters have had to adjust their operations to tackle these threats even as export markets continue to adjust their demands to respond to the emerging issues.

“Business post covid has been remarkable and the road to full recovery has been amazing for Tambuzi. Though, capacity constraints, war in Europe and re-emergence of covid cases in some parts of China has dulled the process, we will outlive these hiccups. Market diversification has been our main area of focus post Covid with a big interest in developing our local flower market which I can proudly say we have made serious inroads,” said Daniel Mwambia the Sales, Export and Packhouse Manager at Tambuzi Limited, a flower grower in Central Kenya in an interview with HortFresh.

Shmulik Ben Harush, Sales Manager & Tech Support East Africa at Danziger added: “The pandemic had some positive impact on the flower industry. At the beginning of COVID in Europe when lockdowns were announced, consumers could not travel so they had money to spend on other things like flowers which was a plus for the industry as demand was there. As COVID persisted demand dropped but it was still there. What really disrupted the industry was the Russia, Ukraine war. Freight prices increased dramatically especially during the prime flower selling seasons like Valentines. Aircrafts and containers were no longer available. People started buying back their stocks. Growers could not export to the Eastern Europe countries which adversely affected the industry.”

The flower industry is also grappling with changes in weather that has caused ripple effects from water scarcity, and proliferation of pests and diseases. This has forced industry players to revise their farming schedule to adapt to the impacts of climate change. For example, traditionally the first months of the year are known to be relatively warm and growers prepare their inputs, including pest control solutions based on the temperatures. But heavy rains during this period have meant that growers have to revise their plans to tackle threats associated with the cold period.

To respond to these emerging shocks, industry players have become innovative by going beyond providing traditional pest and disease control solutions to coming up with unique products that boosts the health of the crop and ensures optimum growth. The industry has made remarkable inroads in sustainable practices. From investment in solar energy, water harvesting and innovations that fight pests and diseases without harming nature, flower farms have invested in these technologies as a way of responding to market demands that dictate focus on planet and people before profits. According to Kenya Flower Council, 80 per cent of the farms are using renewable energy with 5 per cent of them being carbon neutral.

Developments along consolidation, buyouts, mergers and acquisitions have become commonplace as businesses look to optimize their costs in order to be more effective or grow their portfolio as they look to capture more markets.

As breeders, growers, exporters and buyers come to terms with issues that are shaping the industry, they are optimistic that trade shows like IFTF will herald new business opportunities and deliberate on solutions to keep the industry resilient.

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