In the autumn of 2020, the federal government ordered Mexico’s premier horticultural trade show OPF Mexico to postpone due to the second wave of coronavirus cases. However, organisers JMT Consultores, OPF Mexico’s Consultative Council and IPM Essen are now gearing up for the 2021 edition of the show. FCI sat down with Enrique Arias who spoke about the show’s format, its exhibitors and visitors, educational programme and safety measures.
In 2019, the world’s premier show for ornamental horticulture, IPM ESSEN, announced another expansion of its international network by opening a new trade show in Mexico. The inaugural ornamental Plants and Flowers (OPF) show took place between 18-20 September 2019, attracting 118 exhibitors from 11 countries. In the Citbanamex convention centre more than 9,600 industry professionals saw cut flowers, cut foliage, potted plants, trees, shrubs, perennials, horticultural supplies, and everything in between.
FOUR MAIN CATEGORIES
Entitled Ornamental Plants & Flowers MEXICO (OPF), powered by IPM ESSEN and endorsed by Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, OPF 2021 will again be held at the Centro Citibanamex convention centre in Mexico City November 17 to 19, a time of year when the international trade show calendar is not too packed. Planning and preparation of the trade show and accessories are well underway.
“We have segmented the exhibit hall into four main categories: Plants and Flowers, Innovation and Tech, Floral Design and Floristry, and Landscaping and Gardening. Attendees can opt for three 3 formats: face-to-face with digital support, physical booths with remote attention exhibitors and a virtual exhibition. The Netherlands is the partner country of OPF 2021 with the show floor hosting a Dutch country pavilion,” says Arias.
Organising a flower trade show isn’t something new, but organising a flower trade show during a pandemic is something none one of us has experienced before. How is the Covid-19 situation in Mexico?
“Covid-19 heavily battered Mexico’s ornamentals sector between March and August 2020, causing a considerable drop in sales and job losses. However, Mexico continues to be a sizeable consumer market for plants and flowers. In the run up to Christmas and Valentine’s Day, sales of poinsettia and cut flowers respectively were significantly up. Following a spike in Covid-19 cases in winter, the infection rate is now decreasing, reactivating the ornamental industry and other professional sectors that are gradually returning to a new normal without severe restrictions.
All necessary precautions and sanitation measures remain in place,” ensures Arias. Currently, Mexico has no international travel restrictions. However, in terms of travel regulations, it complies with health and hygiene measures within complexes such as hotels, convention centres, restaurants, and tourist sites. OPF Mexico’s venue is a world-class exhibition centre, complying with all international regulations on prevention, sanitation and care of its attendees. Mexico is governed by an epidemiological control system based on traffic light colour ratings. The meaning of these colour ratings can be seen on the following webpage: www.bit.ly/3uudLKT
In December 2020, Mexico launched its vaccination programme and it is expected to have a considerable advance of the vaccinated population by the time OPF opens. Arias adds, “Exhibitors or international visitors who cannot travel due to the pandemic situation in their country can make use of packages tailored to their requirements and possibilities. Digitalisation of the event has been a priority to make the exhibition available to everyone and for which we are relying on our technology partner, the e-B2B Connect platform.”
OPF Mexico acts as a platform for strengthening and creating new trade relations with international companies, fuelled by the renewal of T-MEC.
“The T-MEC Treaty between Mexico, Canada and the US is a major opportunity to establish international alliances with Mexico. The three countries have pledged to simplify custom procedures along with other rules to facilitate trade. Thanks to its proximity to the United States, Mexico is a strong business partner, just think of the low transportation and lower labour costs,” notes Arias.
OPF Mexico’s preliminary estimates in terms of number of exhibitors, visitors and show floor size look promising. “We have booked a 8,500 m2 show floor, based on both in-person and virtual attendees, and taking into account the experience of 2019, in which we received more than 9,000 visitors. OPF Mexico 2021 expects to have more than 10,000 visitors attending both in person and virtually or remotely through videoconferencing, in addition to being a paperless event.”
Highlights of the 2021 show include the inaugural novelty contest, which will give growers the opportunity to exhibit their new flower and plant varieties. The winner will be determined according to a vote cast by those attending the event, which will be nurserymen, growers, representatives of self-service stores, floral designers, among other industry players. Vying for the highest honour will be orchids, anthuriums, roses, potted plants, cut foliage and bulbs.
OPF has the added bonus for international attendees of being able to visit some of the country’s leading flower and plant nurseries in the states of Morelos, State of Mexico, Puebla and Mexico City.
Growers will walk visitors around their properties while sharing their knowledge. Another OPF specialty the Remote attention stand. “This service entails the presence of a booth with the corporate image of the company, which will have QR codes that will give access to product views, technical data and supplier profiles thanks to the technological support of the e-B2B Connect platform.”
OPF Mexico will have a host of international exhibitors from countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Colombia, in addition to the presence of exhibitors from countries such as the United States, Spain, France, South Korea, Japan, among others. Arias says that the organisers will constantly update their audience about new exhibitors through our social networks and digital platforms.
The expo’s educational programme is jam-packed and includes conferences, product launches and workshops discussing innovation, Green City, circular agriculture, and trends in landscaping and floral design.
ONE OF WORLD’S MOST TECH SAVVIEST HORTICULTURAL TRADE SHOWS
OPF Mexico is known for being tech-savvy as it has created digital matchmaking for growers under the B2B Conecta brand. Arias expounds, “The idea is that all attendees, staff and exhibitors will download the app or enter through the web platform to contact remote exhibitors, attend conferences, and take virtual tours. Exhibitors will have both in-person and on-site presence thanks to the development of the Events section within the virtual business centre.”
This tool allows people to register for the expo, exhibit their products, data sheets and company profile before, during and after the event. The exhibitor package includes a one-year membership in the platform and the expo information will remain accessible throughout the year. On the platform, available on pc and apps on Android and IOS, visitors will be able to take virtual tours, attend forums and conferences and also engage in business meetings with exhibitors through real-time chat, email and video calls.
Thanks to the platform, in-person and virtual attendees will be able to communicate with remote exhibitors through videoconferencing, real-time chat or emailing through the platform. There will also be virtual access to the exhibition, where they will be able to find the entire catalogue of products and suppliers, register to the forums and conferences of their interest and be able to observe them remotely and timelessly, as well as take the virtual tour in 3D, as if they were inside the expo, which we are sure will attract many more visitors and will give much dynamism to our event.
AIPH STAMP OF APPROVAL
OPF has been granted AIPH’s D category stamp of approval, which is a great honour, says Arias. “We know that the AIPH association watches over the benefit of the horticultural industry and strives to connect all parts from the value chain including breeding, production, trade and marketing in order to be a friendly and profitable business platform for the entire industry of plants and flowers. We are also very pleased to represent Mexico at a global level and to be able to inform our colleagues around the world of the progress that our country has at productive, technological and economic levels.”
Arias concludes by saying that ornamental horticulture in Mexico is an industry for which a promising future of expansion lies ahead. “Mexico has the benefit of international trade agreements and alliances that allow the Mexican ornamental industry to seek business abroad. The T-MEC treaty provides our workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses with a high-quality trade agreement that will result in freer markets, fairer trade and strong economic growth in our region. In addition, Mexico’s geographic position is attractive to the North American market given our country’s low transportation, logistics and labour costs. The country’s benign climate, its different altitude and temperature zones, facilitate the production of almost all ornamental species and varieties in Mexico.”
If OPF is a barometer of how the Mexican flower industry is performing, Arias thinks that despite the extremely challenging business environment everyone can be a winner. “It is evident that the winners are producers who work according to the rules, respect intellectual property and are in permanent search of new markets. The most affected producers are those who do not make an effort to innovate and improve their quality, who prefer to remain in their comfort zone servicing traditional markets that do not demand quality and formality. OPF’s purpose is to help professionalise and internationalise Mexico’s plant and flower industry, landscaping and floral design industry; to create a robust and transversal green business platform with local and global vision using the latest digital technologies; and to bridge the gaps between production and trade to create a friendly and profitable business platform.”