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SEEDS OF FLOWERS GROWN IN WESTERN LIGURIA PRODUCE GREEN SHOOTS OUTSIDE EUROPE
There is a sense of tradition but also dedication to the export trade. It is not just the reputation of San Remo helping to the support the flower production sector, which continues to drive Italy’s agriculture market as a whole. The heartland of flower-growing for export continues to be based in western Liguria, but is making its presence known across the world thanks to a highly efficient sales network. This is a sector with a great history, but its leadership over recent years has become increasingly associated with creating an impact abroad. In terms of production, Italy is now second only to Holland.
In a highly competitive market like that of flower cultivation, which has suffered the effects of a crisis threatening to undermine the very foundations of its business, the western Liguria district association has remained at the helm of a network of companies increasingly dedicated to export. Riccardo Giordano, President of the production district for the provinces of Imperia and Savona, explained the current situation: “Flower production now accounts for 80% of exports both within the San Remo district and in that of Albenga: areas which are becoming increasingly export-oriented”.
Of the 20,000 businesses which operate in the sector throughout Italy, more than 5,000 belong to the western Liguria district association, producing a combined turnover of about 250 million Euros a year. In percentage terms, this amounts to a level of production equivalent to more than 10% of overall sales. Last year, the total value of sales for the whole sector throughout the country came to 3 billion Euros.
The creation of district associations, especially at international level, has allowed Italian participants to overcome pre-existing limitations of size and cost. However, the Ligurian producers have had no desire to lose their autonomy or sacrifice their specialist interests. In the western Ligurian basin, their expertise is associated with the cultivation of certain types of plant for the cut flower market, including blooms, green fronds and foliage. What might be regarded as the traditional area of production, and from the business angle the one most directed at the export market, has given way to flowering pot-plants, aromatic herbs, cacti and succulents. The capacity of these last types of plant to carve out a share of the international market can be largely attributed to their smaller size, which makes them very suitable for shipping overseas.
For many years now, Italian containers filled with plants and flowers have been arriving in the USA, Russia and Japan. Within Europe, the leaders in this market are Germany, Holland and Switzerland. A recent development has been some outsourcing initiatives that the district association has set up in south-east France, and on the Mediterranean coasts of Spain and Israel.
This dynamic situation has allowed the sector to achieve a nationwide increase in exports of 8.7%, accompanied by an increasing emphasis on a strategy of international growth. Giordano emphasized this point: “The district association’s programme in coming years will focus on promoting the high quality of flower production in our western region. A first step was joining the Flormed project, which activated the now rapidly developing process of outsourcing”. It is hard not to deduce from this that for producers in the Ligurian district association the loveliest flower of all is the blooming export market.