The Ninth edition of the International Flower Trade Expo (IFTEX) Nairobi took place on May 3oth –June 1st, at the Visa Oshwal Centre, Westlands, Nairobi. Below is a chat with Dick van Raamsdonk, President HPP, and the organizer of the event;

After staging eight consecutive IFTEX exhibitions in Nairobi, you were happy with the outcome, one of the reasons why even after two years of absence due to Covid the event is back this year. What would you attribute this success to considering you indicated earlier shows exceeded expectations?
The fact that Kenya is the only country in the world where the production area of flowers structurally increases is a strong indicator that the sector -overall- is in a good shape. Moreover, growth in a worldwide economic turmoil shows that the sector has to row against the stream and still moves forward. This cannot mean anything different than strength for even more growth when coming into calm waters. Therefore IFTEX is an excellent instrument for the Kenyan floriculture Industry to support and accelerate this growth.

What was your most ‘unexpected’ occurrence at the show, e.g. looking at the your list, did you expect a smaller number?
Yes, I did expect a lower number of exhibitors. But I was 100% confident that this trade fair could not fail and would be a “full house”. The only big unknown factor was how to convince the Kenyan growers that this would work if they just would believe in it. Never before in my 36 years career of organising flower trade expos anywhere else in the world, I had so many excellent building parts in my hand to create the almost ‘perfect’ flower trade exhibition, I am even tempted to call it.

Being a flower trade expo specialist, I got very excited the moment I added it all up and suddenly visualized the ideal place for an African flower trade expo could, would and should be Kenya and Kenya only. However, I was still waiting for the greenlight from the government which did not come until March. I then decided to hold as many meetings with the growers and other stakeholders as needed until they would be convinced to give it a try and take a booth after covid. It was somehow still unexpected though I finally managed to get enough on board. Even though it was the first time for such event in Kenya after covid.

Do you expect a bigger IFTEX 2023? Why, if yes?
Yes, IFTEX will definitely grow in its tenth edition next year. We will be going back to normal. Am thinking of an extra space down in the parking. Not only because of many more Kenyan growers who want to exhibit, but also some exhibitors wanting to display in bigger stands.

Furthermore, IFTEX is bound to become a regional event, hosting growers from other African flower producing countries that are too small on its own to hold such event. And as already mentioned, I expect IFTEX to become the Africa’s flower grower trade fair, becoming the sourcing market for the world for any African fresh cut flowers.

What can you single out as the most outstanding feature of IFTEX Nairobi in terms of exhibitions and visitors?
The only event where you can meet all flower growers at the same time and place, together with buyers.

When you first spoke on IFTEX Nairobi, you said it had potential to grow into the largest flower fair in the world. What are the other big events in the world, and why do you foresee Kenya beating them in days ahead.
Other big cut flowers trade events are in Ecuador, Colombia, Germany and Holland. Kenya will soon join this list and become a serious competitor for the number one position. Compare it if you like with the European Cup, South American and the now strong African cup.

Can you point one good example of something that has happened because of the fair?
I have received a positive feedback; above expectations and the most important outcome was confidence in the future of this fair. There will be many new international exhibitors as well signing up for this year. Furthermore most, if not all previous exhibitors will be present again next year with, in many occasions, bigger sized stands. The most important thing that could have happened in the fair and which actually did happen is the change from doubt in belief that flower buyers did fly in and did attend the expo at a time like now.

What was new in 2022 that was not there in 2019?
The ‘only’ thing that was new is: an event against all odds!!! I risked though I did minimal marketing. This year we have missed the Russian buyers. But we have more buyers from Middle East, Australia and Europe. These have compensated the Russians.

How do you rate Kenya Compared to other Exhibitions you organise?
You cannot compare IFTEX to the Holland Exhibition. In Kenya you have growers and bring buyers. In Holland you have innovators and bring in growers and buyers, They are completely two worlds apart.

As an investor in Kenya, what is your view on business climate, what are the most challenging encounters, and how would you suggest that things be done differently or improved, especially now that the country is headed to getting a new government that needs to focus on economic development and improved lifestyles for its citizens, visitors and investors?
As an investor you need a stable economic and political environment. Only then an investor is willing to keep on investing, especially foreign investors and then can a country expect more jobs and consequently a better lifestyle for its citizens.