Photo report: Horticulture omnipresent at Fruit Logistica 2018

The Fruit Logistica in Berlin has three usual ingredients: a temperature below zero, chaos around the busses after the end of the day and a quiet Friday. This was also the case this year for the three-day trade fair, which transforms the German capital into the Fruit and Vegetable capital of the world. Thanks to a new hall, there was more room for Latin American countries, which was reflected in the number of new companies, and the South African exhibitors moved to this hall. The large number of halls, however, was not appreciated by everyone. Not every hall attracted as many visitors and while, for example, hall 25 suffered some congestions in the aisle, you could walk around in the City Cube or in hall 7.1 in relative peace.

While last year's strikes at the airport in Brussels and a blizzard in the US disturbed air traffic to the fair, things went smoothly this year. Wednesday was considered positive by all traders. From the first minute, there were many visitors. Opinions are mixed on the second day. The exhibitors in the City Cube were somewhat disappointed by the number of visitors. The hall, which is a little out of the way, drew fewer visitors this year than last year. Exhibitors in halls 7.1 and 8.1 also complained about the low number of visitors. Moreover, traders told us that this year, they missed some good contacts with regular visitors to the fair.

New hall makes positive contribution, but also creates confusion
The South African companies, with some Latin American countries, were housed in the new hall 26. They were delighted because the hall attracted more visitors than hall 7.1, where the South African companies had been placed last year. The number of visitors was good. Some companies postponed their appointments from Wednesday and Thursday to the traditionally quiet Friday. Two large companies are considering booking a larger stand next year to be able to receive all visitors.

The growth of the fair is not perceived as positive by everyone. The maze of halls can be confusing and a plea has been made for the supply of better information on the shortest routes between halls. There is also a demand for more information at hand and larger floor plans in order to improve the navigation through the halls, but that is up to the fair's organizers to address.

"Quiet" Thursday after a very busy Wednesday
The Spanish traders rated Wednesday as a good day, better than expected. That made the expectations for Thursday, usually the busiest trading day, high, but that second day was disappointing. Also in the Dutch hall the visitor numbers on the "busy Thursday" were disappointing. Also, there seems to be a trend among Dutch traders to make appointments with customers outside the trade fair. Many trading companies featured fresh packs in their assortment.

The number of horticultural suppliers has grown considerably in recent years and it has become possible to put a very decent greenhouse together by visiting halls 6.1, 7.1 and 8.1. Of course, this does not happen at the fair itself, but it is easy enough to find the suppliers. Hot topics in horticulture include LED lighting and vertical farming, substrates and ways to minimise the amount of labour required in a greenhouse.

Breeders are also extensively present at the fair and do generally really well. What is most usually sought is a similar production to that of the standard variety, but with a distinction in terms of taste, labour, shelf life and presentation.

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Fewer Spanish companies
The Berlin trade fair attracted significantly fewer Spanish visitors than the Spanish counterpart Fruit Attraction, which is organised every year in Madrid in the autumn. This not only has to do with the shorter travel time to the Spanish capital for the growers and traders on the Iberian Peninsula; it is also an attractive fair for seasonal reasons. The Spanish campaigns are then about to start, while in February the season is already well underway.

China: from exporter to importer
The Chinese delegation consisted of 80 companies spread over several halls. The vast majority of the exhibitors are exporters. Traditionally, Chinese companies are strong in the export of ginger, garlic, pomelo and other citrus fruits, apples and pears. While the number of Chinese exhibitors doubled in the latest Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong, this has not been the case in Berlin; however, some new products were introduced, including Chinese kiwis, mangoes from Sanya in South Hainan and red pitahaya.

A second trend was also clear: the country is becoming less of an exporter and more of an importer. This trend is also visible in other sectors. The first of two large Chinese companies that have traditionally been devoted to exports are turning more towards the Chinese market and importing more. A large importer is investing in domestic cultivation for the local market.

Chinese technology is also on the rise. A supplier of sorting machines is growing fast thanks to the orders it is receiving from South Africa and the Mediterranean. The suppliers of various data and temperature loggers of Chinese origin are also gaining ground. Also, the number one association from China, Hebei Produce Association, was also present. These associations are usually not visible internationally.

Click here for the photos of Dutch exhibitors
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The mood among the Chinese companies was positive. A trade fair visit is often combined with a visit to Europe. In addition to meeting up with old trading partners, the companies that showcased new products were particularly happy about the new contacts that were made.

Latin America is committed to Europe
Latin American countries are increasingly interested in exporting to Europe. Companies that already exported to Europe would like to increase their volumes. Air-shipped pineapples are a new trend that is taking advantage of the demand for ready-to-eat products in various European markets.
Ecuador, Colombia and Guatemala clearly had a larger stand this year and a larger presence. Honduras, Panama and the Dominican Republic were also to be found in the new hall 26. Every year, there are new companies from Latin America attending the fair.

When it comes to the number of visitors, it was really busy on Wednesday and Thursday, mainly in hall 25, known as the Latin American hall, where the aisles were at times congested. In general terms, the atmosphere among the exhibitors was positive, certainly because of the crowds, but also because of the demand for the products. Some also voiced their concerns, for example, regarding the Mexican asparagus season, which is currently in full swing, but is not going well. Some banana exporters also talk about the difficult situation on the banana market because there is simply no product to deliver.

Click here for the photos of Dutch exhibitors
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Italy: Extremely quiet on Friday after very busy Wednesday
In general, the Italian companies believe that the event has grown, even though it had little room to do so. Fruit Logistica remains THE trade fair for these companies. Italy is Germany's second biggest source of imports, after Spain. While the first day was very busy for the Italian exhibitors, Friday was extremely quiet. Among the exhibitors, there was a great focus on innovation and there were strikingly new (young) faces in the sector.

French companies want extra trading day
Hall 22 was, without an inkling of a doubt, the domain of French companies. There was plenty to do in the hall. The meetings organised by Business France attracted a great deal of attention, and interested parties continued to flow in most other stands. Star Fruits celebrated its 50th anniversary and surprised its contacts with a festive snack and drink. Kiwi producer Sikig also celebrated half a century of history this year. This year, potatoes and apples played a key role. Of course, the fast-growing French organic sector was also well-represented. Some French companies are, in fact, asking for an extra trade day on Tuesday.

Germany: convenience, organic and local
Among the more than 300 German exhibitors, there were many trading companies, cultivation cooperatives and specialised suppliers (in machine building, packaging, seeds, etc.). Sustainability, convenience and local production are the three trends that connect German companies. The clear growth of the organic sector is closely related to this, as confirmed by the great interest in the Bio stands. The German exhibitors were mainly to be found in halls 20 and 21, which they shared with trading companies from Hungary and Austria. The grass paper from the German packaging company Scheufelen was nominated for the Innovation Award. The packaging producer Weber GmbH also made a noteworthy contribution with its food bags made of 90% compostable paper.

The convenience range is also growing fast. The assortment, including potato products, fruit mixes and cut vegetables, is expected to expand considerably in the coming years. However, this focus on time and cost savings also translates into the steady rise of snack products. This was reflected in a multitude of mini-vegetables and snack products. An example of this is the coconut chips from start-up company PookSpaFoods, which were placed in the spotlight with the Innovation Award on the last day of the exhibition.

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Producing locally and striving for ecological balance are also important in Germany, as demonstrated at the stand of Bayerische Kartoffel, which showcased a range of organic varieties and locally grown products. The growers' association VEOS (East Germany), VOG and Evelina (South Tyrol), as well as the OGS Steiermark (Austria), also received a lot of interest by emphasising the local origin of their products. The presence of BioTropic GmbH and Lehmann Natur shows that ecological production is also important when trading import products.

Healthy snacking from Eastern Europe
For the companies in Eastern Europe, the focus was also on healthy snacks. Polish and Azerbaijani companies showcased fresh and dried fruit and vegetables to be consumed as snacks. A Polish company presented "snack tubes" filled with cherry tomatoes, soft fruit and grapes. Besides, dried kale, tomatoes, apples, mangoes and beetroot were also on offer. Azerbaijan complemented this assortment with dried persimmons, which were presented in a luxurious package.

The Polish companies celebrated their ten-year jubilee as exhibitors at the fair. On Wednesday, after the exhibition day, glasses were raised in celebration to mark the occasion. Newcomer Ukraine was present for the first time with a stand where more than twenty companies were represented. The country is trying to take another step on the international market by selling apples, blueberries and stone fruit.

Click here for the photos of Dutch exhibitors
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