The shifting epicenter

Panoramic of Taipei city at sunrise, Taiwan

The West isn’t the center of the universe anymore. The demographic and economic epicenter has moved from Europe and the USA to Asia, Africa and Latin America. China offers many opportunities. And growing prosperity will bring changes in horticulture.

 Martin Olde Monnikhof and Nynke Runia (Dutch agricultural counsellors based in in Beijing) reflect on China’s growing role on the world stage. “Their main ambition is to further develop their country, not overtake US dominance. But for historic, demographic and economic reasons they wish to be taken seriously at  an international level, including  competitiveness in agriculture and horticulture.

China’s major challenge is sustainable prosperity. This is what the population asks of the government. So there’s lots of attention on alternative energy sources and clean water.

Doing business is different in China. You need a reliable local partner. If he is not okay, the project will fail. You also need good market and transport strategies. Then there’s the government and the Party, who are omnipresent in China. There is a Party secretary in any company of some substance. The government is responsible for market access. Good contacts with national, local and provincial authorities are of great importance. If the government is on your side it can be of great benefit; if not, you have a problem.

Chinese culture differs from any other culture. There’s the language barrier and there are different ways of negotiating. Chinese are less transparent, tending to negotiate till the moment you deliver the product. Therefore, it takes time to do business. But when you are in business, the possibilities are  endless. China needs to think big and do so in the floral business, too.

Yes, we do see market potential. Of course China will develop its own production areas (in which foreign growers may play a role). In niche markets, foreign flowers and plants have their place . A new middle class is developing, people with money to buy flowers regularly. Although their opinions on flowers and plants may differ from ours, they sure do love them.”

AIPH Secretary General Tim Briercliffe sees two long-term global developments. “In developing countries a new middle class arises, people with money to buy flowers. Cultural influences will eventually decide if they make this purchase. In our International Vision Program we analyse this development. We think you can create new markets on the basis of these developments, for instance in China or India. People gaining prosperity tend to adapt to a more Western lifestyle. A vital domestic flower market in India by 2030? Who knows. We do know that everyone loves flowers, but not everyone will buy them for domestic use.

Another development is urban greening. Cities tend to green up their areas, while developing countries do so to an even greater extent than in western countries.

All this brings new opportunities for the industry. But the prospects are eastward-bound. Our September Annual Congress in Taipei is no coincidence. AIPH increasingly attracts more Asian growers. We are present there in conferences and exhibitions. Western markets tend to stabilize, Asian markets tend to grow. Asian production will grow, too, but there will be niche markets bringing new opportunities for traditional European, African and Latin American production  but also   innovation and exports of knowledge and skills.”

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