KAVB: almost 150 years active

Flowerbulbs promotion dating back almost 150 years is a main activity of the Royal General Bulb Growers’ Association (KAVB). The benefits reach around the globe and are such, all growers are invited to have a more active role in the marketing campaigns.

Without export there was, and there still is, hardly a basis for the existence of the Dutch flower bulb sector. One of the first people to be active in the bulb trade was Emmanuel Sweerts from Amsterdam. As early as 1612, he issue a company catalogue in which he announced that his bulbs could be bought at the Frankfurter Messe, a trade fair in Germany.

In the centuries thereafter many hundreds of traders followed in his footsteps. One of them was the grower and exporter Johan Heinrich Krelage who had his company in the city of Haarlem. In the midst of the 19th century he was doing business in many countries in Europe, but he also established contacts outside Europe, for example in Japan.

In 1860, together with a handful of other bulb growers, he founded the General Association for Bulb Cultures (AVB). Both growers and exporters joined this association whose main goal then was to promote the sale of flowerbulbs through exhibitions organised by the Association. These exhibitions were not only organised in the Netherlands but abroad as well.

Soon it became evident that exporting bulbs came with its own set of problems. In 1875, Italy decided to close its borders to avoid the import of the Colorado beetle, obviously this also affected bulb exports.

At this time, the Association proved its raison d’etre through its negotiations with the Italian authorities; bulb exports to Italy recommenced.

Actually not much has changed between 1860 and 2009. The Association was granted the title ‘Royal’ by the Queen of the Netherlands in 1953 on the occasion of its first international exhibition in the Netherlands, this exhibition was the predecessor of the Floriade which debuted in Rotterdam in 1960.

The association has remained very active exhibiting its products in countries all over the world. Not just in the large exhibitions such as Floriade, the International Garden Exhibition (IGA) in Germany and exhibitions in Kunming, Osaka and Chang Mai, but also in smaller, sometimes even local exhibitions.

All producers welcome

These days, international negociations also continue, but for Colorado beetle subsitute the name Arabic Mosaic Virus or Ditylenchus spp.. For the Royal General Bulb Growers’Association (KAVB) the focus of the work is in the Netherlandsm but time and again international issues require further attention. For example, the KAVB is heavily involved in the policy and work of the Flower Bulb Inspection Service which guarantees top quality bulbs to buyers, many of these buyers are professional flower producers outside the Netherlands.

Import requirements on quality and the absence of organisms that are considered to be a phyto-sanitary risks are matched with growing conditions in practice.

This is the only way it is possible to meet the high standards for countries such as Japan, the United States, China and Russia.

To promote the sales of bulb flowers in the Netherlands as well as in other countries the KAVB has set up committees for tulips, lilies, daffodils and zantedeschia. These commitees (one for hyacinths already existed) unite the supply chain from flower breeder to exporter, develop marketing strategies and promotion campaigns and help to raise funds to finance these campaigns.

It is evident that flower produceres outside the Netherlands also benefit from these campaigns as they help them to sell their bulb flowers. The KAVB would welcome these non-Dutch producers to play a more active role in developing the strategies and fundraising, i.e. from EU promotion funds.

Most KAVB members are still from the Netherlands. Around 2,000 are enlisted as members. For some years now, the membership has been open to companies from outside the Netherlands under the condition (for juridical reasons) that they have a branch based in the Netherlands.

Apart from the usual advantages the membership of a growers’ association provides, it also offers them the opportunity to bring trade disputes to the KAVB’s Board of Arbitration. On this board, two judges, three producers and three exporters consider all aspects of the dispute, both from the juridical point of view and from the technical bulb point of view and decide whether the claim is to granted or not.

The benefits the Board provides include knowledge sharing and a swifter outcome (a verdict often being obtained in a relatively short timeframe). The court language is Dutch and Dutch legislation governs the Board’s decisions and procedures.

Last but not least, the Netherlands is a member of the EU. More and more, the policy concerning agriculture, use of pesticides and minerals, phytosanitary regulations, water quality criteria and regulations to protect the environment are decided upon in Brussels. Therefore it is evident that the KAVB has to have contacts and an impact in Brussels in order to maintain the platform needed by bulb growers to play their role in global business.

Registration authority

For more than 50 years, the KAVB has been the responsible International Cultivar Registration Authority (ICRA) for a large number of bulb crops.

Tulips and hyacints are the most important, but also covered are iris, crocus, hippeastrum, and zantedeschia. Every new cultivar worldwide should be registered by the KAVB in Hillegom. For other bulb crops, i.e. daffodils, lilies and gladioli, the KAVB closely collaborates with other registration authorities like the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK and the Lily Society in the USA, These registrations are essential for transparency in trade and correct handling in production and preparation according to the specific requirements of each cultivar.

Through the KAVB website everybody can find the appropriate information about the identification characteristics of registered cultivars. To obtain this information, the cultivars are grown in trial fields and described and judged by experts. (breeders and growers) from the sector.

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