Flanders – more than azaleas

Flanders in Belgium is world renowned for its azaleas. But during Elmia Garden the industry organisation VLAM is proof that the region offers a lot more as well.

“Our member companies can offer a large variety of products suited to a colder climate,” says Lieve van Kerckvoorden, horticultural product manager at VLAM.

The Vandeputte company is participating VLAM’s joint stand at Elmia Garden. Vandeputte cultivates small coniferous plants.

A lot of Flemish azaleas are exported to Sweden and sold, including in cooperation with Crown Princess Victoria's Foundation. Another proof of their quality is that the azalea from Ghent was the first horticultural product to be given the recognition of Protected Geographical Indication by the EU in 2010.

As recently as in April the Flemish laurel tree also received the protection.

“Tree cultivation is the most important horticultural segment in Belgium and we are also trying to market it internationally,” Lieve van Kerckvoorden explains. “The companies in Flanders have a long tradition. A number of them are family owned and possess huge expertise.”

The first time VLAM had a joint stand at Elmia Garden was in 2013 and this year’s fair will be the third. This year nine companies will share the stand and they represent a broad spectrum of product groups. Everything from trees and bushes to decorative plants and sprouts. And of course azaleas.

“Some of the companies already have contacts in Sweden and regard Elmia Garden as a good way to start long-term relationships. For others it’s about learning how the Scandinavian market works and seeing if they can make some interesting contacts,” Lieve van Kerckvoorden says.

VLAM, Flanders’ Agricultural Marketing Board, is an external company under the Flemish government and is tasked with marketing the Flemish agricultural, horticultural and fishery industries in Belgium and abroad. Lieve van Kerckvoorden believes that the Swedish and Belgian horticultural markets are fairly similar – with one exception:

“What makes the countries different is mainly the climate and that Swedish consumers buy more potted plants than we do in Belgium. But our companies from Flanders can offer a number of products that are suitable for a cold climate.”