Ornamental plants: an all-time high in Almeria

Hibiscus

In 2021, exports of live plants and flowers registered their best figures since the first records, with a value of €54.8 million

The Ornamental plant sector in Almeria is experiencing a golden era. Last year, exports of live plants and cut flowers from Almeria registered an all-time high since the first records (1995), reaching a value of €54.8 million (+17.4% compared to 2020); 40.064 tonnes (+60.2%) and 2,246 operations (+39.7%), according to figures from Extenda. “Never has so much been sold”, sources from the Andalusian Foreign Promotion Agency affirm.

The ornamental plant sector in Almeria took off at the beginning of the 1980s and since then it has continued to grow, both in number of producers and in plant species and varieties produced, turning the province into a regional leader. According to data from Extenda, Almeria covers 36.5% of exports of live plants and flowers from Andalusia, and, in turn, the Region of Andalusia is the second largest exporter in Spain, after the Region of Valencia, with a record of €150.1 million in export value in 2021 (+10% compared to 2020) and a weight of 26.8% in the Spanish national export balance.

Of the 53 companies from Almeria that market these products outside our borders, 26 are regular exporters (they have been exporting for 4 years running.)

Broken down by product, flowering plants, in bud or in flower (except for cacti) stand out, with €19.7 million (56.2% of Spanish exports); followed by bulbs, corms, tubers, roots and tuberous bulbs and rhizomes (€2.5 million and 65.1% of the weight); and lilies (€566,000 and 57%).

Europe is the priority destination, with 99.5% of the sales; and the largest clients are France, with €29 million (52.2%), the Netherlands, with €8 million (15.2%), and Germany, €6 million (10.4%). Outside Europe, the most important destination is Morocco (€166,000), followed by the countries in Asia (€117,000).

The main growing areas are El Ejido and La Mojonera, in the west, and Pulpí, in the east.

To give visibility to this sector and seek out solutions for the producers’ main problems, in 2016 COEXPHAL created the Ornamental section, which in 2020/21, grouped together 36 companies with a surface area of 280 hectares (154 in greenhouses and 126 in the open air). During this period, the members of COEXPHAL marketed 27.6 million live plants, of which they exported 90.3%, mainly to Holland (46%), France (36%) and Germany (8%). We talked to Francisco Rubio, Head of the Ornamental Plant section at COEXPHAL.

grafica ornamental

According to FEPEX, Spanish exports of flowers and plants increased by 27% in 2021, passing 560 million euros. How has the pandemic affected the evolution of the sector in Almeria?

The ornamental plant and cut flower sector was amongst those that suffered most in 2020 due to the activity restrictions adopted to control the COVID-19 health crisis, particularly during the toughest months of the lockdown, which coincided with the production and marketing time of 60% of their campaign, and resulted in losses of over 440 million euros. After overcoming this complicated situation, the professional plant and flower producers in Almeria continued with their activity, producing amounts similar to the previous year and with increased product quality.

How is the rise in the cost of inputs affecting the sector?

The main problem in these times is the continuous increase in production costs. Everything related to the raw materials that are essential for growing our plants has shot up in price, compromising the profitability of our productions, along with that of the sector. The possibility of passing on this increase to the end client is complicated and risky. At the moment, the sector is strong and, as happened during the pandemic, it is ready to continue with its activity, trying to save costs as much as possible and to improve productivity.

Which products are most important on the trade balance of ornamental plants from Almeria?

The main ones are Dipladenia, with over 4 million plants in Almeria; Poinsettia, with a production of around 5 million and other species such as Hibiscus, Succulents, Tropical Plants and other ornamental species. An increasingly large number of species are being produced in Almeria.

Recently the Food Chain Law has been modified, including the ornamental plant sector. How will it affect producers and marketers?

Our associates are concerned and uncertain, waiting to see how the Law develops, because its application sets forth difficulties, particularly regarding the regulation of the contracts between buyers and sellers, with the obligation of incorporating the effective production cost in the contracts and that the price agreed upon between the primary producer and his first buyer must cover this cost. Administratively-speaking, formalising these contracts and registering them will mean an important extra cost for the sector.

One of the routes for growth that is being determined is the online market. How is this being developed in Almeria?

Online selling is growing every day. According to the study Digital 2022 by WeAreSocial and Hootsuite, almost 6 out of every 10 internet users of working age (58.4%) buy something online every week and, of this percentage, 28.3% have acquired food (18.1% in Spain). This is the reality and in each sector, to a greater or lesser extent, this route is being promoted. In ornamental plants from Almeria, there are marketers who also sell their plants over their websites, and this makes up another market niche which must be worked on and increased.

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