Royal FloraHolland Blog: Bread and/or roses...
8 March, International Women's Day. On this day, the rights and status of women are the center of attention all over the world.
The foundation for this day was laid in New York in 1908, when female workers in the textile industry took to the streets to protest against the working conditions. The women demanded bread and roses. The bread represented money and everything it stands for, and the roses represented love and attention.
Today, International Women's Day is marked in many countries all over the world including as a public holiday in Eastern European countries. It is a particularly important day in Russia. In these countries, women are laden with flowers on International Women's Day, much more so even than on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, when flower sales do not reach nearly the same heights. A country with some 150 million residents, Russia is a huge market for floriculture export from the Netherlands and it has been an increasingly profitable one in recent years, especially on International Women's Day.
Russia is a growing market, but... not of late. Compared to last year, sales in the period of International Women's day, have dropped significantly. That was to be expected with the falling export to Russia; circumstances that the sector can nothing about. No, flowers and plants haven't been boycotted by Russia, but the euro to rouble exchange rate is currently very unfavorable, bringing with it all the expected consequences. For those who had counted on continued exponential growth and entered into contracts on that basis, only to ultimately see them fall through, that is a tough load to bear.
At Royal FloraHolland we have set up the Task Force Russia. The Task Force hasn't been set up to put an end to everyone's problems for once and for all. We can't do that. Indeed, who can? What we can do in this situation, and are doing, is gather as much information as possible and identify the risks. How is the economic situation developing in Russia? How is the rouble performing? How does that impact the agriculture and horticulture industries? What are the expectations? Etc. etc.
Gathering all of this valuable information is one thing, but just as important is ensuring that this information is passed on to our growers and their customers, so that they can make the right decisions for their businesses. We have already passed on this information on several occasions, including on 10 February, in the run-up to International Women's Day, at a meeting on trade to Russia. External experts with valuable, up-to-date, knowledge of the Russian market were present. They reviewed the economic situation to date and forecast the situation regarding trade with Russia. The situation was not presented in a positive light and may well have had a negative impact on many. There was plenty of food for thought and discussion.
I was impressed by the entrepreneurship among the 120 participants, and in particular the efforts to work together - growers and customers alike - to mitigate the situation on the basis of the latest insights into the market - insights that were facilitated by the knowledge we had gathered and the meeting we had organized. To me, it is logical that Royal FloraHolland play a supporting role in this situation.
The sales from International Women's Day were ultimately much lower than last year. While I don't want to trivialize the situation, it should be pointed out that we are comparing the situation to years in which 20% to 30% growth was achieved. Furthermore, a huge number of flowers were still sold and we are not back where we started. The situation is far from ideal, however, especially for the entrepreneurs who will be greatly affected. It is simply a fact that flowers have become considerably more expensive on the Russian market and, well, just like any other currency, a rouble can only be spent once. Perhaps these are times of bread or roses, rather than bread and roses, but I hope that the situation will only be temporary for everyone involved.
Marco van der Sar, manager business development