Green Week Reaps Rich Harvest As it Turns 80 | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 16.01.2006
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Green Week Reaps Rich Harvest As it Turns 80

What began 80 years ago as a goods exchange, has today turned into the "Green Week" - the world's most important food and agriculture fair in Berlin. This time 1,600 exhibitors from 53 nations are adding to the boom.


Fresh and green as far as the eye can see

Fears over the unfolding bird flu virus in Turkey have also spilled over to the annual Green Week fair in Berlin, which began last Friday, Jan. 13.

At the entrance to the massive fair halls, a huge sign warns about avian flu and other epidemics caused by animals.

That doesn't mean that animals aren't part of the 80th international Green Week. This time about 3,000 bees, 4,000 fish and a further 3,000 domestic and livestock animals are part of the attraction. But, this year they've all had to undergo stringent controls, said Christian Göke, head of the fair halls.

Grüne Woche in Berlin BdT

Not real cows, but a giant cow poster at the Green Week.

"Everything that's alive had to be examined by a specialist veterinarian five days before the fair began," Göke said. "That is, I believe, the highest possible standard that you can implement."

Göke added that there were no indications during the examinations of anything suspicious.

Boom time

Despite the unease over a possible outbreak of bird flu in Europe, the Green Week is booming this year like never before. In the 80th year of its existence, the Green Week remains the world's largest food and agriculture fair.

And this time, horticulture is a huge part of the attraction. Visitors can wander through a carpet of daffodils and crocuses, a Mediterranean garden with 2,000 aroma herbs or marvel at a sea of 25,000 flower types. More than 1,600 exhibitors from 53 countries have made their way to Berlin this year to showcase their produce.

"The halls are packed to capacity this year, we had to build an additional temporary one at the back next to the animal stalls in order to fill the demand for further space," Göke said.

Spotlight on Russia

The fair began in 1926 as a simple commodity exchange service for farmers and local traders and has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. More than 30 million visitors have attended the fair since its inception.

Grüne Woche - Seehofer Pröll Gordejew

German Agricultural Minister Seehofer (center) with his Austrian and Russian counterparts

This time two thirds of all exhibitors are from Germany. The biggest foreign exhibitor and at the same time partner country of the Green Week this year is Russia. For the first time, the 22 regions of the vast country stretching from the Baltic Sea to Siberia are exhibiting their culinary specialties.

In addition new EU members such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary as well as EU aspirants Bulgaria and Romania and other eastern European countries are also visible in full force.

Almost two thirds of exhibition space is taken up by the food industry. In Germany, the sector with its 6,000 companies and more than half a million employees is one of the biggest industries.

"The turnover of the food industry in Germany rose in 2005 by 3.3 percent to 134.5 billion euros ($164 billion)," said Jürgen Abraham, chairman of the Federal Association of the German Food Industry.

Exports are a vital part of it. Last year, processed German foodstuffs sold abroad raked in an estimated 29.7 billion euros -- amounting to a fifth of the total turnover.

Farms are big business

The food industry's presence at the Green Week is largely in the form of regional and international specialties, dominated by wine, beer, cigars and digestives. Agriculture too is another important focus with special exhibitions on organic farming and renewable resources.

Gerd Sonnleitner, head of the German Farmers' Association said that Germany played a leading role in Europe when it came to organic farming and energy-saving agricultural methods.

"We have 17 million hectares of agricultural land in Germany and out of that about two million hectares are already used for renewable resources, biomass and bio-energy," he said.

Biobauernhof bei Heidenheim

Farming may not be a sexy profession, but it's a lucrative one

A further centerpiece of the Green Week is a model of a farm that advertises for internships in the 14 so-called "green professions." Over 40,000 interns are currently estimated to be undergoing training in farming professions and a further 30,000 are training to be butchers, bakers and confectioners.

The Green Week also makes apparent the importance enjoyed by the agriculture and food industry in Germany's economy. Some 11 percent of those holding a job in the country are directly or indirectly involved in the food and farming business.

The so-called "agribusiness" sector is said to have a annual turnover of a whopping 500 billion euros.

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