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Dutch Flower Exports, World’s Biggest, Slip 2.3% on Slow Economy

The Netherlands’ flower and plant exports, the world’s biggest, fell 2.3 percent last year as declining consumer purchasing power was compounded by cold spring weather in Europe and a summer heat wave that hurt sales.

Exports of tulips, roses, potted plants and other greenery fell to 5.27 billion euros ($7.13 billion) from 5.39 billion euros in 2012, the Dutch Agricultural Wholesale Board for Flowers and Plant reported. That beat a December outlook for shipments of 5.2 billion euros.

Spending on flowers and plants has been under pressure since the start of the economic crisis in 2008, according to the board. Unemployment in the countries sharing the euro rose to 12.1 percent in November from 11.8 percent a year earlier and 10.6 percent at the same time in 2011, Eurostat data show.

“In the past three years there’s been a slowdown in the growth markets for flowers and plants from the Netherlands,” the board wrote. “The important northwest Europe market, central Europe and especially southern Europe declined.”

German demand, which helped lift Dutch flower and plant exports in 2012 even as sales to France and Italy fell, joined the slump last year. Exports to Germany, the biggest client for Dutch blooms, slipped 4.8 percent to 1.57 billion euros. Dutch exporters expect flower and plant shipments to remain stable or post “very slight” growth in 2014, according to the board.

France’s imports of Dutch flowers and plants dropped 4.7 percent to 623 million euros, while shipments to Italy declined 6.6 percent to 279 million euros.

“A cold and extremely long spring weighed on sales of especially garden, terrace and balcony plants, even if flower sales benefited,” the board wrote. “The flower market came under pressure from the heat wave in the summer months.”

Germany had its second-wettest May in 132 years, while in France, May was an average 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) colder than usual and 44 percent more rainy, according to weather office data.

U.K. purchases of greenery from the Netherlands rose 0.1 percent to 792 million euros and exports to Russia, the biggest market outside the European Union, rose 0.4 percent to 252.8 million euros.

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