Interview with Josep Maria Pagès, Secretary General of ENA

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Iberflora spoke to Josep Maria Pagès, Secretary General of the European Nurserystock Association (ENA), the European Association of Nurseries.

How do you assess the current situation of nursery in Spain after two years since the beginning of the pandemic? And in the same way, What is your opinion on this in Europe??

In the first months of the pandemic it seemed that a catastrophe was looming for the sector. It was a tough few months, citizens stay at home for weeks on end, weekends and working days to study and, many, telecommuting. That is why bringing nature to our homes became a necessity and we took the opportunity to put more plants inside the house and in the gardens. Also the City Councils saw it essential to have green spaces close to their citizens. He "cocooning effect" was global, and across Europe demand for plants remains strong and driving the sector.

What consequences can the conflict between Ukraine and Russia have on the European nursery sector??

They are unpredictable. What is certain is that the consequences for Ukrainians are horrific; I don't think there's anything worse than a war. The ENA meeting in summer 2019 we did it precisely in Kyiv, perfectly organized by the Ukrainian association. We visit nurseries and garden centers, similar to ours, and we saw a thriving public gardening business. One of those we visited is now in the middle of a war zone on the outskirts of Kyiv.. They have assumed that they must defend the country and then start from scratch. Many European nurseries are hosting Ukrainian families. It's a tragedy; let's hope it ends soon.

Trade between Ukraine and the EU, very important in other agricultural products, it is less so for nursery plants. Nonetheless, several EU nurseries that had trade relations with Ukraine have been affected., buying production there or selling plants to them.

Moreover, exporting directly to Russia was already difficult for a few years, when they legislated that they could only import plants from EU nurseries approved by Russian phytosanitary authorities. Despite this phytosanitary barrier, EU trade with Russia was important. Living plants represented in 2020 a 7,3% of EU agricultural exports to Russia. In terms of dependency, the 20,0% of the EU's total exports of flowers and plants went to Russia in 2020.

Global instability could also complicate exports to other countries south of Russia. The increase in prices of many raw materials, that looked passenger a few months ago, implies that nurseries will have to raise their sales prices, which can result in a slowdown in demand. For all these reasons, the panorama is complex., but we trust that the benefits, the need to have plants at home and in public space, keep demand high as is happening at the moment.

How do you think the latest laws and regulations such as the reform of the CAP or the Food Chain Law will affect the nursery sector??

With these laws we see the ignorance of the Ministry of Agriculture of what is the Spanish nursery sector, probably because we have not been able to explain it well. We trust that the implementation of the CAP reform by the Ministry will mean that Spanish nurseries will soon have access to area aid as nurseries in the other EU member states have always had., and also aid for their producer organisations.

As for the Law of the Chain, in my opinion it does not make sense to apply it to the nursery sector; the transposition of the European Unfair Practices Directive would have been sufficient. It is not a sector that sells one crop of one product a year to a large buyer with a dominant position, nurseries sell hundreds of different products every day to many different customers. The bureaucracy that will involve sending each contract to the Ministry before the loading of the plants will be unbearable for small companies and will imply an increase in significant administrative costs in the others..

In 2021 the European Green Cities initiative promoted by ENA started, which currently takes place in 13 How do you rate the programme?, about to reach its equator?

Have 13 European countries doing a joint promotion is, already in itself, a success. The campaign is truly European, but it has a variable intensity to adapt to the needs of each country, according to the interests of each nursery association.

The main objective of the campaign is to sensitize decision-makers in cities -architects, Planners, politicians, urban managers, landscape architects, real estate professionals, etc.- on the benefits of greener cities: plants contribute to mitigating climate change, increase citizens' well-being and social cohesion, and improve biodiversity and the urban economy. Professionals are reached mainly through conferences and professional meetings, organized directly or participating in fairs or congresses. In www.thegreencities.eu you can follow the events and the information that is being published.

Will we be able to see him again in Iberflora in his edition 2022? What has motivated you the most to attend the contest in its previous editions??

I trust to be in Iberflora also in 2022. Just like I'm personally at home for Christmas, professionally I need to be in Iberflora every year. Directly feel the pulse of the sector, see what is done, what new companies and new products exhibit, it's important to me as a technician. See us in Iberflora face to face with all the friends of the sector, after a year or more of telematics-only contacts, as well as rewarding, contributes to strengthening and improving relations with other associations, companies and institutions.

Iberflora is preparing a new, more experiential and innovative concept in 2022 What do you expect from the next edition of Iberflora?

I hope you surprise me!!

The advantage of Iberflora is that it has a magnificent team, who do not run the fair locked in an office, but they go out a lot and have the advice of a committee of professionals from different companies and backgrounds. All the fairs have had two very difficult years due to Covid, but they have also served to innovate and risk trying. Sure Iberflora 2022 will be a new success.