Export opportunities brought about by better prices for goods sold from the UK into the eurozone is a positive result of Brexit and the Commercial Horticulture Association (CHA), which organises a delegation of UK companies to German nursery trade show IPM in Essen, says it is seeing more interest in exporting.
The CHA negotiates grants and organises UK exhibitor pavilions for overseas shows. Chairman Pat Flynn says it is business as usual with Europe and nothing has changed yet since the Brexit vote last June. The CHA, along with sister organisations Gardenex and Petquip, says a lot more potential members can see the silver lining of Brexit and are hoping to increase exports. Flynn says one of the often overlooked benefits of exporting is that buyers pay up front, which is a "great cash flow helper".
When 24-27 January
Where Messe Essen, Norbertstraße 2, 45131 Essen, Germany
Tel +49 (0)201 72440
Grower exhibitors at IPM this year include Fairweather’s Nursery, David Austin Roses and Whetman Pinks. Indo Lighting, Bulrush, Hotbox, Cambridge HOK, Hamilton Design, NIAB and PPC Labels are among sundry and services exhibitors.
Fairweather’s owner Patrick Fairweather says showing a commitment to the European export market by appearing at shows, visiting customers, sending out samples and patiently waiting for customers to grow them led to 10 per cent growth in exports in 2016, making up 25 per cent of total sales.
The decision to price his young agapanthus plants in euros over the past two years has led to "stable" rather than "turbulent" pricing. Plants "would otherwise be costing a significant amount more money — that’s as valuable to us as the growth in sales", he adds.
Specialising in agapanthus, rather than offering the wider range he grows for the UK market, makes his export message simpler and means less competition from generalists.
"We are virtually 100 per cent export," says Raymond Evison of Guernsey Clematis. "For us Brexit doesn’t change anything, though at the moment it is brilliant for our customers in North America because of the dollar exchange rate and Europe because of the euro." He hopes to expand in China and South Korea, adding that breeding 80-85 per cent of varieties in Guernsey is his big advantage.
Plant Marketing International and Whetman Pinks will be in Hall 10, launching new products for the global market plus new catalogues. Ed Marley, Steve Austin and Laetitia Moucheboeuf expect growers, plant breeders and suppliers to visit their stand, which will feature special offers for the show. Marley also represents Plant Genetics International, which is seeking joint ventures or acquisitions of plant-breeding programmes.
Long-time exhibitor Harkness Roses will not be at the show after noting what director Philip Harkness says is a big shrinkage in the European market, particularly in Germany and Holland. He attributes the 50 per cent decline over the past two years to oversupply and subsequent cuts in production or business closures, and sees the UK market as more stable. He will visit IPM but says he will concentrate on visiting individual growers on the continent in 2017 rather than meeting them at the show.
Researcher Dr Marianne Altmann says on behalf of IPM: "With Great Britain’s decision to withdraw from the EU, it is possible to establish a degree of uncertainty in both the European and worldwide trade in flowers and plants. Until 2016, Great Britain imported flowers and plants from suppliers and traders in the EU’s member states for a market value of approximately €1bn per year. Already since 2011, Great Britain has thus constituted the second-largest import market for ornamental plants inside the EU."
Key trading partners
She adds: "The Britons were and are one of the most important trading partners for suppliers and traders not only from the Netherlands but also from Germany, Italy, Denmark and Belgium. The trade relationship between Great Britain and the Netherlands is close.
"In 2015, the Dutch exported 17 per cent of their total exports of ornamental plants (€925m) to Great Britain. That’s 80 per cent of all the cut flowers and 70 per cent of all the plants imported by Britons. Trading partners, particularly from the Netherlands, are nervous about the unforeseeable effects of Brexit."
She suggests that the British could pass the more expensive purchasing prices onto the ultimate consumer, extending the trade relationships to and direct imports from suppliers in third countries in Africa and Central America, and/or extend domestic production, "conceivable on a small scale".
EU flower imports
According to EU statistical office Eurostat, 2015 saw 504,952 tonnes of flowers and plants (up 8.2 per cent) worth €1.68bn (up 5.3 per cent) imported by the EU. As in previous years, cut flowers were mainly responsible for the increase, making up 78 per cent of the total.