An export manager who never travels. It sounds strange, but with the corona pandemic in mind, this is – unfortunately – a normal situation. Philippe Gers started a year ago as an export manager at Van Looveren, so he knows everything. Fortunately, he was able to visit a number of clients by car this summer, but countries like Canada and Australia are not accessible at this time.
But Philippe does not give up. Like everyone else in the horticultural industry, he does what he has to do. “We are all in the same boat.”
Strong demand for glass
Business is currently done primarily through Teams. Not ideal, but business continues to operate as there is a high demand for glass in horticulture. “At the same time, the supply is low, because a major player in the market has disappeared,” explains Philippe. “There are alternatives, China for example, but with the cost of containers and the blockade of the Suez Canal, it’s not easy. This year we are already full until week 50, when we normally have glass in stock. “
We are talking mainly about diffuse glass, which is in short supply throughout the market. “We are looking for an alternative glass with high light transmission, like low iron iron, but that is also running out. What we see then is that new construction projects are sometimes even postponed. We can’t get to the bottom of things, ”that’s how Philippe currently describes the market.
Even if he sometimes has to disappoint people because the supply is low, Philippe has no complaints. “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 vast production country, you have to navigate your way to find exactly the quality you are looking for. “We are not only talking about the quality of the glass itself, but also issues such as the packaging and finishing of the glass. We are very attentive to this and we have also familiarized different factories so that they can provide the quality that meets our requirements.
Maintaining quality is an ongoing process, in which each delivery is monitored. “It takes time and energy, but we are for quality.”
Race for light
Philippe also sees many opportunities for the coming period. Countries like France, Switzerland and Germany are well in the market. In various countries he signals a “race for light”, partly under the influence of Dutch greenhouse builders. Tomato growers and florists in particular are true “light seekers” – they are always looking for the most light and the least shade, ie diffused 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 growing demand. The travel ban has been lifted in Belgium, it is now important that entry bans in various countries also disappear. “I can’t wait,” concludes Philippe.