“With the coronavirus pandemic, the unanticipated event has hit. And it has hit us hard.
We, nurserymen, are used to the weather being unpredictable. Mother Nature takes us often for unpredictable twists and turns and growers of trees and shrub can usually cope with her.
The coronavirus, however, confronts us with a completely different challenge. One that not only impacts the horticultural industry, but also shakes the foundations of our society at large.
As the virus is continuing to spread globally, tree and plant nurseries across Europe see different types of business disruption. In my homeland Germany, we feel the effects primarily in our export markets, private sales as well as in sales in the garden centres and DIY stores.
The commercial garden and landscape industry are still operating as usual, although somewhat more cautiously. However, total shutdowns are affecting the nursery stock industry in some European countries, which dampens demand and has brought horticultural sales to a near standstill.
But no matter where we are, at home in Europe or other continents. In the whole world, people are worried about their health but also about the future of their companies, their customers and, above all, their employees. Adhering to strict hygiene protocols in our daily work is more vital than ever. And we are doing everything we can to overcome this acute crisis. Members of the European Nursery Stock Association ENA, are currently collaborating with other horticultural trade associations, to provide help and support to businesses in the various European member states.
How will business look like in the post corona era? Sadly but true, some companies will not be able to weather the fierce economic headwinds and pressure. Meanwhile, the critical factor is that typically robust companies that will get into financial problems because of the crisis, will receive state aid.
As such, awareness among politicians must rise so, they can better understand how in a tree or plant nursery you cannot simply lock the door, turn off the lights and send your employees home. Even if a nursery has no or only weak sales due to the coronavirus crisis, a grower must still water and fertilise his plants and protect them for diseases and pests. Nursery stock plants must also be potted, replanted and widened. Politicians must first understand this.
A critical path to follow, which was already in place in some countries before the crisis, is to be in close contact with politicians and give them an understanding of our industry. This action is not always smooth in nations that are strongly influenced by other multinational industries. That’s why it’s good to regularly invite politicians and ministers to the companies to show what we do on-site. This activity helps horticulture during crisis moments and also sharpens the politicians’ view of what we as an industry do for society: for people and the environment. We call this ‘systemically relevant’.
I urge you all to work closely with politicians to find a way out of this crisis. Because the market for our products will not dry up after this disaster, instead, the expansion of green infrastructure will continue to be essential in the future. It would make sense to launch a Europe-wide ‘green’ economic stimulus package. Against this background, let us nurseries be part of the EU’s ‘New Green Deal’.
And it is not only in the public space that we will gain greater importance. In these weeks of crisis and the associated lockdown, people are becoming more aware of what they have in their garden – their extended living room. I firmly believe that after an initial shock and a review of the situation in the wallets of the European citizens, their love for a green living environment will awaken more strongly than today. And we are the key to it, to make the dreams of comfort and well-being in house and garden come true.
The future will be green, and in such a future, we nurseries, occupy a prominent place.
About the author
Fourth generation Jan-Dieter Bruns is CEO of one of Germany’s leading plant nurseries Bruns Pflanzen. Currently, he is also President of the European Nurserystock Association (ENA).