Dutch glasshouse acreage will not be maximized

A maximum number of horticulture businesses in the Netherlands cannot be named and also no maximum acreage has been set. This was said by Cees Veerman, who coordinates the restructuring of Dutch horticulture, which is now in a bad financial state. He leads the HOT coalition, involving seven parties working on the restructuring and development of Dutch horticulture.

Veerman: "It's not about how many growers remain. We will ensure that whoever is a good entrepreneur can continue to be so and get a chance to strengthen the company and the sector. This is not dependent on a number, but on the entrepreneur and the will to reinforce the sector for the future together." Can growers already get started? Can an entrepreneur do something about reinforcement now? Veerman emphasizes that the growers are the foundation of the restructuring process and are involved at every step. "The most important thing is that the growers support the process. Be helpful, propose collaborations or ideas. Don’t grumble or react cynically that it’s not going to work." Because Veerman also knows that this has happened in recent times. "We’re good at that in the Netherlands. We love to grumble. I understand that people think 'Is this necessary?’, but we must put our hands on the plow and not grumble."

The criticism from the sector was not only about the plans, but also about Veerman as a person. He’s not very worried about that. "Whatever. That’s my destiny. I’ll leave it to their responsibility. If they already know that it’s not going to work out, then that’s very clever. It only encourages me to make something of it. And not alone. We’re in this together."

Formation of the coalition, last Friday

'Together' since last Friday also includes ornamentals. FloraHolland is also part of the HOT coalition. Veerman is glad about this. "It’s all related: if you want to restructure horticulture, for example spatial planning, you see that nurseries are mixed up in the landscape. If you want to take steps, for example, realize larger lots or reorganize companies that have no future, then you also have to engage floriculture."

However, the involvement of floriculture is not only practical. "The vegetable sector is the reason for the restructuring, but there are also complications in the flower sector. The horticultural problems are so linked to flowers that you can’t see them as separate." According to Veerman it is still too early to say whether floriculture will also reform marketing structures and develop market intelligence. "We’re thinking about it, but we’ve only been set up Friday. It’s still in its infancy."

Marketing structure
According to Veerman floriculture can also serve as a model for the greenhouse vegetable sector. "Great things have been accomplished by cooperation in the dairy sector, but also in ornamentals. Sales are concentrated in FloraHolland. In fresh produce marketing is fragmented. That doesn’t work. Everyone understands that. The question is how to get more structure in it to strengthen the position of horticulture." Isn’t FloraHolland a strange example? Hasn’t the vegetables sector just come out of such concentrated marketing? "Thirty years ago there were six or seven auctions. They were not particularly focused on cooperation. It is not about the number, but how collaboration is structured within legal frameworks."

Hold together
How is Veerman going to hold all these different parties together? "I can’t do it alone. Common interest should always lead. Realizing that we can shape this process by working together is key. Cooperation can only benefit us." Is that more difficult after a relatively good season? "To see one year as indicative of what to do is short-sighted. Look at the industry structure, international competition and the issues in areas such as energy and the concentration of retail chain stores. You’re kidding yourself if you conclude after one year that things are going better." Hasn’t horticulture done that for years? "I don’t know. I look to the future."

For now restructuring is proceeding well, according to Veerman. "Slow, but well. It's an extremely complex and lengthy process, we’re not turning everything around in just a couple of years. It’s about creating opportunities for greenhouses in the broadest sense of the word, to strengthen that position in the course of years, in the light of international competition. A lot needs to change: areas are outdated, especially in Westland, but its products, cultivation techniques, energy issues and marketing structures also need renewal. It’s all connected." Veerman can’t yet set a time period. "It takes years and it's a process of small steps. We go for little fanfare and few big words. There is work to be done and the solution is in concrete data, not in noise."

Record of the plans is kept on www.coalitiehot.nl

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