ROME, Italy: Assoflora, the trade association for ornamental horticulture in Lombardy, invited Italy’s flowering pot plant growers to a meeting in Rome on 22 July. They discussed what actions to consider for Italy’s potted plant nurseries that are now facing challenges due to the coronavirus.
Almost 50 flowering pot plant growers attended, according to Assoflora the number of which represents 60 per cent of the country’s overall production, alongside several young plant producers and crop technicians.
First, Assoflora’s chairwoman, Nada Forbici called for recognition for the industry and the benefits it brings to the economy and society. All agreed that the disruption by Covid-19 highlights the need for more dialogue and collaboration across the entire value chain.
According to Forbici, Assoflora initially met with scepticism from growers, fearing that they were going to have to sit through the umpteenth talk about the need to unite the country’s ornamental industry. “However, a lot of good things came out of the meeting. The fact that all of us were seeing a severe decline in revenue did create a sense of solidarity with more willingness to help each other. Covid-19 is a turning point and the crisis marks the beginning of a new era which coincides with a generational change in the ornamentals sector.”
As in other parts of Europe, recovery among Italian growers has been driven by exceptional plant sales as consumers spend more time at their homes and in their gardens. However, the loss of sales in March and April, usually the most profitable months will not be easy to recover. And several attendees fear that the surge in plant prices will be only temporary as supermarkets continue to search for even cheaper plants to lure in additional customers to their stores. Attendees called for a more solid-based pricing structure at the retail level with a less devastating effect on small and medium-sized florists and garden centres.
Italian plant growers predict there will be a shortage of products which clearly will not help them to find a mechanism to stabilise prices. What does help, growers say, is the definition of reliable quality standards, more in-depth knowledge of the market and the sharing of production and inventory data. Equally important is guidance on how to deal with expended payment terms during the Covid-19 crisis as well as the need for a Made in Italy brand for ornamental plants, especially at the level of traditional sales (garden centres and specialised retailers).
Growers at the meeting found that their products can make the difference on the market from a quality point of view, on condition that each product comes with the right information for the end consumer including care instructions and more general plant about the freshness and environmental benefits of local products.
The discussion went on with attendees asking the question of how to tap into the trend of going green among Italian consumers and how to use flowering pot plants to connect with them.
Another issue raised was the competition from abroad with imported plants entering the Italian territory and the absence of equal rules in terms of crop protection products which are often prohibited in Italy while allowed to use abroad.
“This must be placed as an element of distinction of the Italian product that gives more guarantees to the final consumer compared to the fact that it is healthier than the foreign product coming from some areas of the world which are less eco-conscious. The sharing of ideas and the enthusiasm that emerged from the participants in the meeting leads us to think that today marks a milestone of the renewal of Italian floriculture. Forbici summarises the achievement of the meeting’s objectives by saying, “All this bodes well for the continuation of Assoflora’s work.”
Meanwhile a working group has been established. It includes: Simone Cargnino (Piemonte), Guido Barra (Marche), Lionella Pastor (Liguria), Pietro Paparella (Puglia), Luisa Mondelli (Lombardia), Nicola Nozza (Lombardia), Remo Dimeo (Lazio), Marco Carmazzi (Toscana), Giacomo Chiarappa (Toscana), Luca Maffucci (Toscana), Giorgio Demenech (Toscana), Bruno Santacroce (Calabria), Francesco Guarino (Sicilia), Fabio Baldi (Emilia Romagna), Giampaolo Girelli (Veneto), Antonio Pisapia (Campania), Nada Forbici and Andrea Pellegatta (Assofloro).