The Netherlands and Great Britain have much to learn from each other in the fresh produce arena
By leading the British pavilion at the inaugural Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference (November 2-4, 2016), the UK’s Commercial Horticultural Association (CHA) hopes to build on the strong bond that already exists between the British and the Dutch horticulture sectors
Showcasing UK inventiveness
From psychedelic squashes to super-sized soft fruits and show-stopping succulents, growers worldwide are offering an ever-expanding range of fresh produce and ornamental plants for buyers to choose from. Arguably, such great variety would not be possible without the exceptional level of behind-the-scenes innovation that occurs at every stage of a product’s development – from the breeding of seeds to the creation of new and improved ways of planting, potting, washing, grading and packing such crops. As Pat Flynn, chairwoman of the CHA notes, the British horticulture industry is especially good at driving such ingenuity. “We have a wealth of manufacturing expertise [that’s] unrivalled throughout the world. Our manufacturers and research establishments work with growers to produce what they need for their growing operations – if we don’t have a tool for the job, we’ll invent it.”
Flynn notes, for example, that the UK’s injection moulding expertise is second to none, particularly in the Birmingham area. “Another area is anything to do with engineering, grading machinery and seeding machines,” she adds. With these strengths in mind, Flynn hopes to showcase the UK’s inventiveness in Holland through the CHA’s British pavilion at next month’s Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference (APS) – one of the key aims of which is to create new business partnerships throughout the horticultural supply chain. Flynn says: “The CHA is an internationally recognised mark of excellence in the horticultural world and as such we are pleased to support the APS with a view to facilitating further the excellent relationships that already exist between Dutch and British growers, suppliers and manufacturers.”
Opening up export markets for UK firms
Flynn points out that the CHA frequently brings British growers and manufacturers out to fly the flag at international events. “We regularly take nursery growers of plants and trees out to IPM Essen and produce growers to exhibit at Fruit Logistica,” she says – adding that JDM Food Group, Nu-trel Group, Russell IPM, and Hortifeeds have all had recent visits Fruit Logistica thanks to the CHA’s support.
Flynn explains that the CHA, which was set up in 1978, originally facilitated business between buyers and growers, and suppliers and manufacturers, in the UK. “This is still one of our prime targets,” she says, “hence the recent cross-sector conference for the business of horticulture, GrowQuip*. But as time went by we also realised that commercial horticultural manufacturers needed help, research and advice to be able to trade with the rest of the world. The CHA is now an Accredited Trade Organisation and Trade Challenge Partner for the Department of International Trade (formerly UKTI) and as such this enables us to bid for funding – which in turn helps small- and medium-sized enterprises to attend international trade shows to open export markets for their businesses.”
Holland: “Showing the Brits how to do it”
Whilst Britain clearly has much to offer Holland and the wider international horticulture scene, Flynn notes that the CHA also recognises that “the Dutch can teach us a lot too.” This is perhaps unsurprising given that the Netherlands is a horticultural “nucleus” – handling 24% of the world’s international trade in horticultural products and 50% of the flowers shipped worldwide. British growers therefore source many products from Holland – chiefly, notes Flynn, seeds, growing mediums, glasshouses and glasshouse-related technology such as climate control equipment.
Flynn reflects: “History going back hundreds of years shows that we have always had a good working relationship with the Netherlands, so many of our resident growers in the UK have Dutch ancestors who settled here, reclaiming land from the sea and showing the Brits how to do it. There is a long history of co-operation between our two countries and a mutual respect and empathy.”
The CHA is therefore hoping that its presence at the APS will open up new opportunities for both countries. Flynn notes: “Whilst both nations continue to innovate and talk to each other, we will all prosper. The CHA is happy to be the catalyst for the start of many of these discussions.” Given that buyers are continually forming business relationships, they will no doubt appreciate the importance of creating new agreements throughout the horticultural supply chain. Ultimately, new agreements help to create a bigger range of products for consumers to enjoy – and perhaps that’s what this industry is all about.
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