An export manager who never travels. It sounds strange, but with the corona pandemic in mind, that is - unfortunately - a normal situation. Philippe Gers started a year ago as an export manager at Van Looveren, so he knows all about it. Fortunately, he was able to visit a number of customers by car in the summer, but countries such as Canada and Australia are not accessible for now.
But Philippe isn't giving up. Like everyone in the horticultural sector, he does what he has to do. "We are all in the same boat."
High demand for glass
Business is currently mainly done via Teams. Not ideal, but business continues to run, as there is a great demand for glass in horticulture. “At the same time, there is little supply, because a major player in the market has disappeared,” says Philippe. “There are alternatives, China for example, but with the container costs and the blockade of the Suez Canal, that is not easy. This year we are already fully booked up to week 50, where we normally have glass in stock.”
We are mainly talking about diffuse glass, which is in short supply throughout the market. “We are looking at alternative glass with a high light transmission, such as low-iron, but that too is running out. What we see then is that new construction projects are sometimes even postponed. You can't get to the bottom of it,” that is how Philippe currently describes the market.
Even though he sometimes has to disappoint people because the supply is low, Philippe has nothing to complain about. "There is no hesitation in investing, we are seeing more and more production under glass." Even crops such as cherries, apples, pears and peaches are now grown under glass.
As mentioned, China has become an important alternative source of glass with the current shortages. In such a huge production country you have to know your way around to find exactly the quality you are looking for. “We are not only talking about the quality of the glass itself, but also about matters such as packing and finishing the glass. We are very attentive to this, and we have also familiarized various factories so that they can deliver the quality that meets our requirements.”
Maintaining quality is a continuous process, in which every delivery is checked. "It does take time and energy, but we stand for quality."
Race for the light
Philippe also sees plenty of opportunities for the coming period. Countries such as France, Switzerland and Germany are well on the market. In various countries he signals a “race for the light”, partly under the influence of the Dutch greenhouse builders. Tomato growers and flower growers in particular are real “light seekers” - they always look for the most light and the least shade, ie diffuse glass. “And if their neighbor has it, they want it too,” laughs Philippe.
Fortunately, there is also light at the end of the corona tunnel, and Philippe will soon be on the road again to meet this increasing demand. The travel ban has been lifted in Belgium, now it is still important that the entry bans in various countries also disappear. “I can't wait,” Philippe concludes.