Spreading the risk is the motivation for many of the UK contingent exhibiting at IPM Essen on 28-31 January to increase their efforts to export more plants and growing technology.
Commercial Horticulture Association (CHA) manager Stuart Booker says the annual show is now so busy "it's a struggle to get as much space as we wanted". The CHA is hosting a reception at the show for a second year, at 5pm on 29 January, where exhibitors can discuss and compare their experiences.
Booker points out that while the UK market has been tough over the past 12-18 months the export market has helped some members "keep ticking over". He adds: "The point we've been trying to promote is this is an opportunity to dip a toe in the water if you want to export plants, technology and machinery."
Hampshire-based young-plant supplier Fairweather's Nursery is a good example of a grower that has identified an opportunity overseas, Booker notes, and he says UK Trade & Investment, which can offer £1,500 in grant aid, has been supportive in getting newcomers to export.
Fairweather's managing director Patrick Fairweather says part of his range is young agapanthus plants, a "fairly specialist line so we need to grow our market size to grow that section of the business".
He adds that Fairweather's had success at French show Salon du Vegetal in 2013 and already exports to the Netherlands, Italy and the USA. "We're really at Essen to make contact with potential new customers to develop more sales in other markets," he explains.
"We have some cultivars that are particularly hardy, which is appealing to some European buyers used to buying from Italy as patio product but who don't appreciate selections are available as border plants that can withstand the cold. They're all UK-bred colour breaks and we've got interesting characteristics that continental Europe is not familiar with."
Fairweather's has meetings set up and will see existing European customers. "It's a look-see exercise, getting feedback from German growers - and we're looking forward to meeting Italian growers to get some business with them," says Fairweather.
He adds that reserves were late coming in for the UK market, which partly prompted the look overseas. "It spreads the risk," he explains. "We won't have all our eggs in one basket."
Kernock Park Plants business development manager Mark Taylor says the show brings important brand-building gains. The grower is part of the Proven Winners global network. "Everybody from Proven Winners attends - people from the USA, Japan, South Africa, sometimes Australia and all our European partners," he adds.
"IPM is probably the most important show in the calendar now. It's at the right time of year in the middle of Europe and it's an international show. People from around the world will come to the stand to look at Proven Winners. They'll travel from Japan to see customers from Asia. The show is important because it's international."
He points out that Kernock's international reputation is aided by IPM. "It's more of a promotion of the brand than for business," says Taylor. "It strengthens the image of the brand because people from the UK will see that Proven Winners is an international organisation, not just something Kernock came up with."
Whetman Pinks managing director Carolyn Bourne is a strong advocate of the export market. "We exhibit at Essen every year, The CHA is brilliant at organising everything and making it all painless," she says.
"In Germany, we have meetings booked with existing clients from all over the world - Australia, South Africa, Japan and Europe. It's an incredibly efficient use of our time and it strengthens relationships and bonds between supplier and customer." She points out that exports helped the company in 2013 when the UK market was hit by bad weather.
Whetman Pinks wants to promote its award-winning variety Dianthus 'Memories', which has also been nominated for the Colour Your Life award at IPM Essen.
The Devon grower has had 10 1.5-litre flowering pots donated by a customer for January display. Bourne says: "It's a cracking new variety and we'll still see it in 100 years' time."
Export revenues have been slightly dented because of the strength of the pound against the dollar and the euro, but quantities have been good. Bourne adds: "We have to keep an eye on weaker economies in the eurozone and be cautious that we don't get left with a bad debt. But the US economy is bouncing back, thank goodness, and Australia has a strong economy."
Products and services
A showcase of innovative new products and service solutions from British suppliers will be on display in Hall 10 (stand 10C13 and 10C17) and Hall 3 (stand 3B37).
The expanding pavilion in the technology hall will feature products including professional grower substrates from Bulrush Horticulture as well as coir products from Cocogreen (UK).
Cambridge HOK and Hotbox International will also showcase their latest introductions. Solufeed will return with its speciality fertilisers and Agralan will introduce its new blueberry gall midge pheromone trap.
David Austin Roses will be launching Living Gift while the Guernsey Clematis Nursery will show several of its new Evison and Poulsen clematis in flower, including the new Endellion Boulevard Evipo076(N). KPP will also be exhibiting.
Plant Marketing International is now growing jumbo 5cm plugs as well as 9cm pots. Other companies displaying will include grower sundries designer and manufacturer Tyne Moulds, custom-design labels, packaging and point of sale expert PPC Labels and specialist root-control system manufacturer the Caledonian Tree Company. First-time exhibitor G Plants will be promoting gardening products from its Easy Gardening range.
In Hall 1A, in the Green City Info Centre, trade bodies will be providing information about services and ZINEG (Future Initiative on Low-Energy Greenhouses), a project that aims to keep fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions as low as possible by utilising the latest innovative technologies.
Meanwhile, the Innovation Showcase in Hall 1A will focus on new plants from international plant breeders.
Colour Your Life Award - Plants nominated for award at trade show
Ten plants have been nominated for the Colour Your Life Award at this year's IPM Essen:
- Hydrangea Macrophylla Forever & Ever, Viva la Vida, Udenhout (the Netherlands).
- Helleborus, Special Plant Zundert (the Netherlands).
- Laurus nobilis, Gova, Nispen (the Netherlands).
- Duofruit, Fruithof Kapelle (the Netherlands).
- Dianthus Memories, Whetman Pinks (UK).
- Evercolor, Fitzgerald Nurseries (Ireland).
- Camellia japonica, Flora Toscana (Italy).
- Hydrangea paniculata, Alex Schoemaker Boomkwekerij, Boskoop (the Netherlands).
- Syringa 'Agnes Smith', Lakei Nurseries (the Netherlands)
- Blosjz Berry Pernettya mucronata, Roland van der werf (the Netherlands).
The plants will be on show in Hall 12, in the BIZZ Holland exhibit, and the winner will be revealed on 30 January.
Around 60,000 visitors go to Essen for the show each year. This year there will be 1,500 exhibitors from 45 countries.
Hall 1 is mostly Dutch and Belgian. Hall 2 is best for German ornamentals, plant breeders and young-plant producers. Hall 5 is mostly Danish and Hall 6 mostly Italian, while Hall 8 includes Sri Lankan, US and Taiwanese exhibitors. Hall 9 features Hungarian, Japanese, Spanish and Polish exhibitors. Hall 10 houses the British contingent.
When: 28-31 January
Where: Messe Essen, Norbertstrasse 2, 45131 Essen, Germany
Tel: +49 (0)201 72440.