A beautiful spring sun shining on the deck of an endless greenhouse – How Dutch do you want it? Well, Dutch… Dutch greenhouse farming has been flourishing for years thanks to Chinese glass. The suppliers have independently started exporting their product to Dutch growers over the past decade. By now, hundreds of hectares of greenhouse are covered with product from China. For Planti, one of the largest producers, the moment has come, partly due to the Corona crisis, to establish a Dutch branch. Tobias de Zwart is the company’s new Dutch representative.
Sometimes chances are slim. If Tobias hadn’t worked in a clothing store, he might not have run into Michael Lee, founder of Planti. If he hadn’t gone on an exchange to China during his studies, he might not have started talking to him. And if Corona hadn’t happen, having a Chinese-speaking, Dutch representative might not have been Planti’s top priority. Now, however, it all came together, and since this year Tobias has been working for the Chinese glass and lighting manufacturer.
“I always found the agribusiness sector very interesting as it is one of the largest sectors in the Netherlands,” Tobias explains. “But how big exactly, I didn’t quite know beforehand. And also not how big Planti is in this sector. Of the Chinese glass producers in the Netherlands, we are the largest.”
The glass sector is an international entity and Chinese suppliers have been on the rise for years. China has the raw materials available and the production techniques that make them particularly competitive in horticulture. Diffuse glass in particular is in high demand worldwide – something that has only increased since Cultilene decided to stop producing it last year. With pressure from the solar panel market, the pressure on glass producers has further increased – reasons why the price of glass rose substantially last year.
“Because of the European anti-dumping measures, we at Planti also had to deal with hefty import tariffs before,” Tobias explains. Now, however, a new type of glass has been developed that is not subject to the import tariffs.” He explains that the glass is made with more iron, but still achieves the desired clarity of low-iron glass, as well as the AR coating. “This allows us to reduce the price for growers.”
Due to the circumstances Tobias has not yet been able to see exactly what the production process looks like. The corona measures are still throwing too much of a spanner in the works. In recent months he has therefore mainly visited the company’s Dutch customers. “Of course I would like to go there in the future and meet the whole team. To start a new job this way is quite special – but at the same time I am happy to be of service to Planti and to be able to work in such an interesting sector.”