A good year for the roses
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CTA. 2000. A good year for the roses. Spore 85. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46655
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore85.pdf
Flowers love people, but no love is lost in the Dutch flower auction in Aalsmeer. ACP and other Southern countries command a fifth of this market, where you never cut corners, nor quality. Is it curtains for coffee, cotton, tea and cocoa?...
Flowers love people, but no love is lost in the Dutch flower auction in Aalsmeer. ACP and other Southern countries command a fifth of this market, where you never cut corners, nor quality. Is it curtains for coffee, cotton, tea and cocoa? Horticultural exports of vegetables and flowers from some African countries have soared since the early 1990s, whilst traditional agriculture has stood still. The export of flowers from several countries in eastern and southern Africa to the European and North American markets has grown spectacularly in recent years. Between 1990 and 1995, sales of Zimbabwean roses on the British market increased tenfold. More modestly, sales of Kenyan carnations rose by a mere 117%. Behind this surge lies the fact that Dutch and German companies have set themselves up in the countries concerned, investing heavily to control the horticultural sector. Local farmers have organised themselves into cooperatives to form holdings of 50 hectares and more and have thrown themselves headlong into flower production, sometimes with the support of associations, such as the Zambian Export Growers Association. Traditionally the international wholesale flower market was centred on the auction halls of the Netherlands, with their clock-like dials of descending prices. Today production and marketing have been restructured. In Zambia, for example, a central purchasing agency known as Agriflora buys direct from producers and shortcuts the auction halls by selling direct to the supermarkets of Europe and North America. And the international horticultural market is not just confined to flowers : other fresh product lines are being developed for the markets of the North, such as asparagus, courgettes (zucchini) and parsley. The overall chain of production and marketing in fruits and vegetables is long, and the central buying houses play a key role in it. The production of green beans from southern and eastern Africa is absorbed by the United Kingdom, and that of central and western Africa by the French market. Need for perfection and professional standards The efforts made to capture the key Dutch markets has led to lower shop prices, but they have affected quality, since professional checks are no longer carried out. One specialist with experience in Kenya underlines that the flowers have to look perfect to command the market price . This means that everything has to work smoothly, like clockwork, all along the cold chain that takes the chilled flowers from the site of production, through the airport, to the wholesaler. Just one small error in programming, just the slightest delay, and the produce will arrive in poor condition, or delayed, in Europe. The consequences will be serious for the producer. Competition is growing too. The total volume of ACP produce on the European market may be growing, but their market share is shrinking. The lack of professional standards on the part of some producers is to blame, as are the cumbersome formalities which increase delays at the harbours and airports. The quality of ACP produce has stayed stable, though, over the last twenty years. Kenya is now the world s fourth largest producer of cut flowers after the Netherlands, Colombia and Israel, but it is these countries which continue to improve the quality of their produce. Other countries, such as Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe have seen their horticultural exports increase over recent years, but they still have to face up to the tremendous challenge of professional standards. Among their competitors are Thailand, the Canary Islands and Singapore. It is a worrying wave Faced with this wave of fashionable produce, what does the future hold in store for the traditional food and cash crops of cocoa, coffee, cotton and so on? One farmer member of the Union of Agricultural and Horticultural Cooperatives of Burkina Faso (UCOBAM), quoted by Mamadou Aly Ba of the Geneva-based IUED, expressed his concern at this trend: 'We started by growing cotton, but after three years we were forced to switch over to green beans. That s where things started to go wrong for us, because we do not know how to market them, and the UCOBAM is not familiar with the crop.' This problem was addressed at a seminar organised by CTA in October 1995 in Dublin, and at two other meetings held by CTA in Madrid in 1998 and 1999 on the marketing and distribution of perishable agricultural food and fish products. Attention was focussed on problems of organisation in the sector, the role of intermediaries, the role of the State as well as infrastructural issues. Participants at those meetings called for streamlining the distribution and marketing chain, increasing the influence of producers and improving cooperation between various stakeholders. Will these steps be taken? Surely some positive action has to be taken if we are to avoid the all-too-obvious possible results of an expanding market for horticultural and flower produce: lower prices for the consumer in the North and falling income for the producers of the South. The Europe-ACP Liaison Committee provides European market price information for fresh tropical produce. COLEACP 5 rue de la Corderie, Centra 342 94586 Rungis Cedex, France Fax : + 33 1 41 80 02 19 Email : email@example.com Website : http://www.coleacp.org/ The Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI), a Dutch development agency, provides market information for fresh fruit and vegetables throughout Europe. CBI PO Box 30009 3001 DA Rotterdam, Netherlands Fax : + 31 10 411 40 81 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Website : www.cbi.nl For more information: Farmer strategies for market orientation in ACP agriculture, 1995, 20 pp, Seminar synopsis, Dublin, Ireland, 23-27 October 1995, ISBN 92 9081 1544. CTA No 780, 5 credit points. Farmer strategies for market orientation in ACP agriculture, 1995. Seminar proceedings, Dublin, Ireland, 1995, CTA, 1997, 174 pp. ISBN 92 9081 1552. CTA No 797, 20 credit points. Cut Flowers, CTA/MacMillan co-publication, 1995, 106 pp. ISBN 0-333-62528-5, CTA No 715, 10 credit points.