There is a lot wrong with the cultivation of flowers in third world countries. The excessive use of poison and water puts food production in those countries at risk. The working conditions are also poor. Dutch companies, which are involved on a large scale in cultivation in Africa and South America, promise improvement in a covenant signed today.

A very large proportion of the flowers and plants that are for sale in Dutch shops nowadays come from developing countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Colombia. Many Dutch companies have set up production facilities there or collaborate intensively with local entrepreneurs. The flowers are exported all over the world, often by plane.

Abuses occur during production. Employees, mostly women, are poorly paid and prohibited poison is being sprayed in the Netherlands. A lot of water is also used, which is often very scarce in those countries. Due to flower cultivation, too little land and water remains for the local population to grow food.

Roses from Africa

In recent years, Dutch flower companies have moved production on a large scale to countries in Africa and South America. The climate makes it possible to grow flowers and plants all year round at lower costs. The best-known examples are the roses, which are almost all grown in Africa these days. The number of rose growers in the Netherlands fell from 765 to 120 in 15 years.

The covenant is signed by approximately 600 Dutch companies, from growers to supermarkets. Ministers Kaag (Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation) and Schouten (Agriculture) signed on behalf of the cabinet.

$ 1.90 a day

Among other things, the document contains agreements about a better wage for the staff in the nurseries. In countries without a minimum wage, that becomes at least $ 1 90 per day. This brings the employees just above the absolute poverty line applied by the World Bank.

That must be tackled within a year, just like the reduction in pesticide use. Some flowers now use ten different pesticides.

Fewer pollutants must also be sprayed on cuttings. Now it happens that poison whose use is prohibited in Europe is sprayed on cuttings. Then those plants are then grown further here.

Criticism: not far enough

There is also criticism of the covenant. Natuur en Milieu and the Max Havelaar quality mark organization were involved in the creation, but will not put their signature under it. They think the agreements don't go far enough.

Max Havelaar is happy with the minimum salary of 1 dollar 90 per day, but would like to see that the lower limit would be raised slightly over the coming years. Natuur en Milieu believes that there are insufficient guarantees that some of the environmental agreements will actually end up. "It is difficult to monitor in Africa."

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