Iberflora, the inaugural editions of the fruit and vegetable trade show, Vegetal World and the logistics exhibition, Encaja, were held together for the first time this year at the Feria Valencia convention centre in Valencia, Spain from October 2-4, 2013.
Few plant fairs in the world are being held in such a magnificent venue as Iberflora. Founded in 1917, Valencia’s convention centre in Benimámet, the Feria Muestrario Internacional de Valencia, is the country’s oldest expo centre. It underwent a massive, €600 million facelift under supervision of architect José Maria Tomás LLavador in 2006. Today, the Feria Valencia is a desirable venue with a bold, modern design and a bright, naturally lit interior.
A revamped, ultra-modern convention centre is just one example of how Spain’s third largest city (one million inhabitants) went boom .. and then burst over the last two decades.
Size and a strong economic headwind are now working against Feria Valencia which was recently forced to rent out part of its giant 231,000m2 show floor to a supermarket chain.
A few kilometres further, on Valencia’s shores, a Formula One street circuit struggles for survival, while downtown, a half deserted City of Arts and Sciences, once an ambitious cultural complex designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, is reminiscent of happier days when fuelled by cheap credit and European Union development funds, Valencia experienced the largest economic boom ever. It is crystal clear that the city has witnessed an extreme reversal of fortune with its landscape dotted with half-finished football stadiums, roads-to-nowhere and empty condos.
Unfinished construction projects mean concrete jungles instead of green oasis and that’s no good for the ornamental plant business. According to Vicente Peris Alcayde, former chairman of Iberflora, the effects of the financial crisis are still rippling through the industry: an estimated 10% of firms who have been forced to close their doors. Firms, that in some cases were important factors in driving the local horticultural economy.
Peris Alcayde added that there are defintely other concerns that weigh heavily on the minds of horticultural entrepreneurs; such as the need for business diversification and a centrally managed Spain-wide crop support system covering the entire ornamental plants sector as well as a clear assessment of the EU’s new pesticides legislation.
But there is more. Spain, for example, was the country with the largest increase in VAT in the world in 2012 after a rise of three percent in the standard rate (to 21%) came into force on 1st September last year. Peris Alcayde dubs it, ‘una barberia’, or in plain English ‘a barbaric act’.
The country’s VAT rates on ornamental plants now rank among one of the highest in the European Union with only Hungary 27% (!) Bulgaria 25%, Denmark 25%, Sweden 25%, Finland 24% and Portugal 23% having higher VAT rates (ENA Map 1).
Interestingly, the tax burden increased on consumption but not on company profits. Spain did not change the standard rate of corporation tax in 2012, which has remained at 30% since 2008.
The present chairman of Iberflora, Mr Oscar Calabuig, a wholesale Nerium oleander grower in Alboraya, added that, “one can’t deny that the European debt crisis slowed economic growth and that a stumbling recovery weakened domestic demand.”
He added, “With their domestic growth being uncomfortably low, Spanish companies are increasingly seeking solid trade connections in foreign markets.”
It is no wonder that they particularly welcome the plans of the local economic agency GIES (Grupo para la Internacionalización de Empresas)/ARVET(Agrupación de Exportadores de Transformados). Their aim is to take a closer look at the industry’s export sector and help boost local exporters.
The good news for our horticultural industry is that Feria Valencia, in cooperation with GIES/ARVET, hosted foreign delegations fromTurkey, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland, France, Paraguay Bulgaria and Russia. Calabuig: “It has led to constructive contacts with many different horticultural businesses. Over 150 companies embarked on the Iberflora trade visit.”
Event organiser Feria Valencia deserves credit for its sheer determination to reawaken a trade show that had been dormant for a couple of years. The first big steps were made in 2012 and this year interest in Iberflora continued to revitalise with over 400 exhibitors taking part.
It order to avoid the Flormart debacle (page 10) with looming empty spaces, loyal exhibitors had been offered bigger and prominent spaces for a reduced fee. It allowed them to increase and enhance their displays. Large and elaborate plant exhibits were clearly appreciated by the 11,200 plus visitors.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Iberflora will actually be brought back to the sparkling lustre of its heydays in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 when the event gathered 600 exhibitors and 25,000 visitors.
Iberflora has a long road ahead, but its newly appointed 43-year old chair Oscar Vicente Calabuig Sanchis at least perfectly understood that “it’s the quality of the show traffic that matters, not the size. That’s how we really differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.“
Through their exertions, Feria Valencia and the Spanish horticultural sector with the support of the country’s major horticultural trade associations such as ASFPLANT (the Professional Association of Plants, Flowers and Horticultural Technology of the Valencian Community), ASOCIAFLOR from Andalusia, ASPROGA from Galicia and the Federacio d’Agricultors Viveristes from Catalonia have breathed new life into an event that risked being abandoned.
Alain Boone, from Belgium-based plant wholesaler Van Speybroeck (known for their famous Green à la Carte tagline), for example, decided to travel again to Valencia after a few years of absence “My goal is to sell potted flowering plants such as Azalea from Flanders. I didn´t attend the show for a while but coming back turned out to be worthwhile as I just met a few clients from Madrid asking me to make a nice offer for Brassica.”
Also making its re-entry after a few years absence was OZ Planten. According to OZ Planten’s commercial director Mr Marco van Veen, Iberflora is an obvious choice to win orders in a competitive market and to meet existing and potential customers especially from Spain and France.Van Veen said that the floral wholesale industry has gone through an extremely difficult time with a high number of business foreclosures. “However, the tide seems to be turning.Traditional wholesale is under pressure, while garden centre chains continue to increase their market share. Overall, doing business has become a more pleasant activity with less players on the market and more balance between supply and demand.”
Bamboo guru and exhibitor, Helder Carvalhos from Plant Livra in Sintra, Portugal was bringing new energy to the show floor and Iberflora’s extensive educational programme. In his presentation, he highlighted the versatility of bamboo; it’s one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, it’s edible (after processing), perfect for building and makes excellent landscape plants.
Planta Livra is a relatively young company having been established in 2006. It specialises in bamboo and ornamental grasses. Situated over two sites in the country’s Minho (Guimarães) and Estremadura (Mem Martins) provinces, the 36ha Planta Livra Nurseries have a reputation for high quality bamboo, which is sold to garden centres, wholesalers and landscaping companies.
Carvalhos said Iberflora offered the perfect platform to display its wide range of bamboo plants. Previously working for one of the suppliers of La Bambuseraie near Nîmes (France), Carvalhos has developed a passion for bamboo and provides tips for using bamboos as a hedge, in seaside gardens or landscapes.
Also coming from Portugal is Eduardo Martins, general manager of the Monterosa firm, which is located in Moncarapacho, Portugal. At their stand, they showcased Bougainvillea, Lavandula, Convulvus and Polygama mini trees that have been increasingly in demand from North West Europe. Martins stresses that Iberflora is a shop window for his products, not just to the Spaniards but to the world. “Iberflora is a chance to meet potential customers from different parts of Europe.”
True to tradition, the expo hosted a strong contingent of local businesses (82% of exhibitors) from the Valencia area, which is good for an annual output of 30,965,000 plants with an estimaded economic value of €95,675,000.
Ornacom is located 20kms north of Valencia and, of course, generating new sales leads is also the company’s main raison d’être at Iberflora. The company’s sales manager, Adam Faraj said his company has established a strong presence in France, where it sells to wholesalers and garden centres.
It is the sixth year in a row that Ornacom exhibits is present in Valencia to showcase its wide array of palm trees. Particularly noticeable is Chamaerops humilis ‘Vulcano’, which, according to Faraj is a new compact form of the European fan palm that is currently a big hit in Europe. Chamaerops humilis ‘Vulcano’ was discovered as a nursery variant in Sicily by Vivaivulcano – Ardichetto Nursery and subsequently named after the nearby island, Vulcano. It combines short, stiff foliage, slow growth and compactness.
Stopping at the stand of Poinsettia and Dipladenia specialist Joepasur from Almeria, was Hibiscus and Dipladenia wholesale grower Robert Baggio, from the Bordeaux area. He said that pulling knowledge from others in the same business is invaluable and that Iberflora is THE meeting place.
Gathering of agricultural professionals
This year, Iberflora was held in conjunction with Vegetal World and Encaja. Co-locating the three shows was dubbed a universal success by most exhibitors. It’s more cost effective for attendees and exhibitors who typically go to all three shows. It also combined the great networking opportunities associated with three big events at a single location and the joint exhibition showcased far more companies and products than either individual shows would have done.
Iberflora facts and figures
Name: Iberflora, international trade exhibition for ornamental plants, cut flowers, horticultural technology, garden centres and DIY stores.
Edition : 42nd
Dates: October 2-4, 2013.
Venue: Feria Valencia
Show floor: 24,000m2
Number of exhibitors: 267 (482 including the offer of agricultural technology)
Simultaneous events: Vegetal World and Encaja.