There is really little mystery about why agriculture is important—it is the physical foundation of human energy, health, and physical wellbeing—all key components of every important human activity. To the degree these components are missing, the human existence is defined primarily by the effort necessary to provide them. Making them more widely available at lower costs increases the capacity of any population to invest in more productive work, education, economic development and cultural activities.
The basic facts are clear:
- More people the world over eat more and better because of modern agriculture. Increased production continues to enable steadily improving diets, reflecting increased availability of all foods, dietary diversity and access to high-protein food products;
- The additional food modern systems provide has enabled hundreds of millions of people to realize more of their potential and better lives—thus enhancing the achievements of all, from students to retirees. It increases workforce productivity and generally supports human development and growth;
- The current hunger and malnutrition that extends to some one billion people reflects poor policies, low productivity and low incomes. Failure to continue to apply new technologies to advance productivity on the farm and across the food system simply worsens every aspect of these problems, especially those forced on individuals and families who live in poverty. To a very large extent, current food insecurity problems reflect bad policies, poor infrastructure and low economic productivity in the nations where these conditions occur, rather than a physical lack of food or food production capacity;
- The significant hunger and malnutrition that persist in many parts of the world would have been far worse had agricultural systems not grown and developed as they did;
- The physical pressures on the environment that have become increasingly prominent public concerns have been greatly ameliorated by modern agriculture, which has reduced:
- The need to expand land area, and thereby reduced pressure to cultivate fragile lands and forested areas. Modern agriculture
includes successful new technologies, including biotechnology to enable both higher yields and reduced environmental impacts. These reduce the land, fertilizer and pesticide use per unit of output;
- Pressure on grassland, forestland and cropland thus increasing wildlife habitat as a result;
While the unintended negative environmental consequences of modern agriculture are frequently noted, little mention is ever made of the negative environmental impacts that frequently arise from smallholder farming, especially from ―slash and burn‖ primitive systems in wide use in developing countries where vertical rows are often planted up steep hillsides, resulting in some of the world’s heaviest soil erosion, badly polluted watercourses and many other problems of both efficiency and sustainability. The lack of sustainability of these practices can be seen in the fact that they typically lead to abandonment of successive plots year after year;
Processing technology and handling advancements contribute enormously to improved food safety through pathogen reductions and large reductions in post-harvest losses that further increase food supplies. Pasteurization of milk, canning, freezing, and other processing technologies significantly reduce health risks associated with food. Threats from bacteria and other contaminants are still important, but the risks of illness and death are far less than in the past, a fact that is widely underappreciated;
Modern agriculture brings enormous economic and social benefits to consumers including:
o Improved quality of life and living standards as food costs decline. This effectively raises consumer incomes since it leaves greater purchasing power for other consumer goods, for education, health care, leisure, etc., a trend that has been a major driver of economic growth in developed countries, and in some developing countries, as well. Today, consumers in the United States spend less than 10% of their disposable income for food while many in the developing world spend from half or more of their income on food, a huge drag on quality of life. It is now widely recognized that the development of modern food system has been a major factor in improving the standard of living enjoyed in much of the world today;
- When consumers spend the major share of their income and virtually all of their daily efforts simply to find food, little money or time is left for human investments. This ―survival treadmill‖ characterizes the lives of most smallholder farmers, especially in developing countries;
- Modern agriculture increases global political stability by making more food available, improving its quality and making it accessible to more people.
o Without the advances that characterize modern agriculture, the world arguably would be a much more dangerous and volatile place because more people would be food insecure—as the food price spikes of mid-2008 clearly illustrated.
o Development of a robust, rules-based trading system has been extremely important in improving food distribution and increasing accessibility in food-deficit areas.
The major threat to modern agricultural development comes not from lack of interest and willingness to invest by farmers, but from increasingly vocal opposition from a constellation of activists who have succeeded in shifting agricultural policies in several areas. This threat is discussed in detail in the following sections.
The 38th International Plant Fair IPM ESSEN is looking back on four very successful days at the fair: From January 28 to 31, a total of 1,538 exhibitors from 46 countries presented their innovative products and services in the Plants, Technology, Floristry and Garden Features areas. Messe Essen was once more the most important meeting place of the worldwide green sector. Over 54,000 (in 2019: 52,800) visitors from over 100 countries obtained information about trends and ordered goods for the coming season. More than ever, climate change and sustainability were the dominant subjects at the world’s leading fair for horticulture.
“In the context of the climate discussion, horticulture has gained enormous relevance and ensured an enthusiastic mood in the fair halls. At IPM ESSEN 2020, the green sector has demonstrated its innovative spirit and its performance in an impressive way,” summarized Oliver P. Kuhrt, CEO of Messe Essen.
Already in 2019, the exhibitors stated that the subjects of sustainability and climate change will exert the biggest influences on the sector in the future. What could already be seen in many places last year was omnipresent at this year’s IPM ESSEN: No matter whether environmentally friendly packaging, climate-tolerant new breeds, insect-friendly plants for the promotion of biodiversity, air-cleaning green plants, planter boxes with integrated water reservoirs or peat substitutes – international horticulture showed its innovative power in an impressive form. Also in the Technology area, emphasis was placed on energy-efficient production procedures and pioneering digital technologies.
The Federal Agriculture Minister, Julia Klöckner, who festively opened IPM ESSEN found words of praise for the sector: “Horticulture here in Germany exhibits a high degree of innovation and the businesses find and occupy niches in this way. And they answer questions about the future. For example, when it is a matter of more resource or climate protection.”
Turnover Pluses of Flowers and Plants
The consumers are becoming increasingly aware that living greenery is important for people, animals and the environment. At the same time, plants are ever more advancing to become lifestyle products. In a fast-moving and digital world, the garden is becoming a calming feel-good oasis. In total, the Germans spent Euro 8.9 billion on flowers and plants last year – a plus of 2.7 percent compared with the previous year and the highest value since 2011. Within the framework of IPM ESSEN 2020, the Central Horticultural Association (ZVG) announced that the per-capita expenditure had risen from Euro 105 to Euro 108.
“Anybody who wants biodiversity cannot ignore horticulture,” the ZVG President, Jürgen Mertz, emphasized in his opening speech. “With perennial, woody, bedding and balcony plants, the sector is offering an enormous diversity and insect food. However, insect protection depends not only on the businesses but also on the consumer. That is a big chance for the sector.” Mertz sees evident upward potential with regard to the non-private consumption.
Municipalities are being confronted with the challenge of making cities greener. Here, woody plant ranges viable for the future are in particular demand. The fact that there is a great need for information was illustrated by the lively participation in the seminar entitled “Organizing Sustainability in the Municipality”. Attention focused on reports from the practice of open land planning. During a subsequent tour of the fair, future trees were introduced to the participants. The information event was organized by the foundation called THE GREEN CITY and the Federation of German Nurseries and took place within the framework of the EU project entitled “Green Cities for a Sustainable Europe”.
Partner Country France Showed the Diversity of French Horticulture
France is also supporting the sustainable project of the community of states. The “Grande Nation” presented itself as the partner country of IPM ESSEN. Breeders and young plant producers in Hall 6 and nurseries in Hall 7 showed the diverse spectrum of French horticulture. Some of the best-known and most distinctive plant specialities produced by the country are roses, fruit trees, rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas, cyclamens, chrysanthemums, lavenders, alstroemeria and dahlias. “VAL’HOR, the umbrella trade association of the French horticultural industry, feels honored to have been the partner country of IPM ESSEN 2020. This partnership was a fantastic opportunity to present our French breeders, their sense of quality and innovation as well as our ‘French Touch’. Our credo that ‘Plants Are Vital’ coincides with the zeitgeist and will certainly become ever more applicable in the future. IPM ESSEN is doubtlessly the internationally leading fair and the ideal platform in order to meet all the protagonists in our sector shortly before the beginning of the season. We are looking forward to seeing each other next year,” was the assessment made by Mikaël Mercier, President of VAL’HOR. For the 2021 edition of IPM ESSEN, Mexico is planning to present itself as the partner country of the world’s leading fair.
IPM Discovery Center Presented Heroes of the Green Sector
“We must again be proud of what we do.” In the IPM Discovery Center in Hall 7, the trend scout Romeo Sommers displayed the heroes of the green sector in the form of smart POS concepts. The presentations in the “Garden Center of the Future” were orientated to the latest trends and took account of findings about the purchasing behavior. In addition to subjects such as online services and value added by new breeds, attention focused on innovative recycling systems and sustainability.
Green City: Meeting Place of the Green Associations
Hall 1A was again transformed into the Green City. While the Horticultural Info Center offered advice on all horticultural questions such as plant protection and the plant passport, the Teaching Show highlighted the change in the green sector and the Innovation Showcase presented the most innovative plant novelties (including a peanut for beds and balconies), the trade visitors to the FDF World experienced live shows with international floral designers in a class of their own, open workshops and inspiring showrooms about the latest interior trends called “street savage”, “blended culture” and “inner retreat”.
Helmuth Prinz, President of the Trade Association of German Florists – Federal Association (FDF): “We have experienced IPM ESSEN 2020 as a strong motor of a sector which is presenting floral handicrafts in a self-confident way, is becoming increasingly networked and is bundling forces. The international interest was enormous. There was a great deal of positive criticism for our new booth concept with a central show stage and for the innovative floral presentations in the FDF World. Our partners are giving a great deal of space to the subjects of sustainability and fair production – that is going down well with the florists and is offering strong sales arguments.”
In the first round of the FDF Flower Battle on January 29, the master florist Josef Dirr from Baden-Württemberg convinced the public with spontaneous off-the-cuff floristry and was chosen as the winner. During the showdown on Friday, Maria Dmitrovich from the State Vocational College for Flower Art in Weihenstephan was able to decide the Flower Battle in her favor. The trainee Luisa König from Blumenhaus am Hofgarten, Düsseldorf secured the coveted IPM Fair Cup.
Increased Internationality and More Decision Takers
The proportion of foreign visitors was over 40 percent this year. In 2019, 38 percent of the guests at the fair traveled to the Ruhr metropolis from abroad. In this respect, it was possible to extend the proportion of decision takers. Over 72 percent of the visitors (in 2019: 69 percent) had purchasing and procurement powers.
94 percent of the guests at the fair would recommend a visit to IPM ESSEN. 92 percent of the visitors and 93 percent of the exhibitors are planning to take part in the fair once more. The next edition of the world’s leading fair for horticulture will take place at Messe Essen from January 26 to 29, 2021.
IPM ESSEN 2020: Figures in Detail
IPM ESSEN 2020 counted 1,538 (in 2019: 1,546) exhibitors from 46 (46) nations and 63 (65) percent of them came from abroad. Also including the forecast for the last day of the fair, 47,000 registered trade visitors came to the fair (according to the Society for Voluntary Control of Fair and Exhibition Statistics – FKM). The fair and the congresses were visited not only by national and international trade visitors but also, amongst others, by press representatives, social influencers and further guests of honor.
The world’s leading horticultural trade fair revolves around solutions and innovations in the green sector. The International Plant Fair has been held annually at Messe Essen since 1983. Here exhibitors increasingly present products that are sustainable and suitable for climate change. These include heat- and cold-tolerant plant and shrub varieties, environmentally friendly and resource-saving packaging solutions, organic fertilisers and substrates, air-cleaning, easy-to-care for indoor plants and pots made of sustainable and biodegradable materials.
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