In Europe, bromeliads have been cultivated and traded already for a long time. The largest bromeliad nurseries in the world producing cuttings and finished pot plants are located in The Netherlands. Currently, about 30 Dutch companies produce bromeliads. Guzmania is by far the biggest bromeliad traded at the Dutch auctions. Other important bromeliads are Vriesea, Tillandsia and Aechmea.
At young plant level, the bromeliad market is extremely competitive and is dominated by small number of relatively big breeding companies (Corn. Bak, Deroose Plants, Exoticplant) who compete for market share with a steady stream of new patented varieties. These breeders (or so-called improvers or hybridisers) are working constantly to produce ever more spectacular and hardy varieties for the market. The search for finding new varieties is fuelled by one thing: new stock.
European breeders usually breed, select and propagate their own young plant material. These young plants are sold to domestic growers as well as growers abroad. The companies have switched more and more to in-vitro propagation over the last ten to twenty years.
The competition for finding and being the first to use new superior clones and new species of bromeliads, especially in the genera Guzmania, Vriesea, and Aechmea therefore is fierce. Many superior hybrids have been produced in Europe and are now grown under licensing agreements all over the world. A single patented variety could be worth millions to the patent holder.
In the case of bromeliad young plant material, The Netherlands and Belgium are the biggest producers and exporters. Exports of bromeliad cutting go mainly to Italy, Germany and Denmark, but also outside Europe to USA and the Far East (China, Japan, South Korea).
However, bromeliad cuttings can often be grown faster and cheaper in nurseries abroad than in Europe. Many such facilities exist in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia and, to a lesser extent, in other Latin American countries.
Most commercial laboratories for in-vitro propagation of plants are located in The Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany and Belgium. More and more production facilities in developing countries are used besides those in Europe. Labour costs in developing countries are low and the techniques are available. Usually, a company in a developing country works under licence of the European company.
A trend that can be recognised is the demand for laboratories in developing countries which have experience with specific products and developed ‘protocols’ for these products.