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"Ecuadorian grower: "No local production can replace our roses"

Ornamental industry responds to Trump's election

The American citizens have spoken: Donald Trump will be inaugurated on January 20 as the new president of the US. Protectionistpolitics was one of the pillars of his election campaign, and re-negotiationswith NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico could result in America withdrawing from the deal, he hassaid. But what would this mean for international trade with the US? The flower business, for example.

About 85 percent of the cut flowers consumed in the USA are imported. Colombia is the dominant producer, with Ecuador being a close second. And many potted plants are imported from Canada. How do growers in these countries feel about the election results? We spoke with Colombian rose grower Jose Azout of Alexandra Farms, Ecuadorian rose grower Gonzalo Luzuriaga of BellaRosa and Canadian ornamental grower Ed Vermolen of Aldershot Greenhouses. They all are aware of the possible consequences of this election, but are optimistic about their trade position for the future and are therefore not looking for alternative markets yet.

For Jose Azout of Alexandra Farms and many other growers in Colombia, the US is an important market. "Colombia is the largest exporter of cut flowers to the USA. About 70 percent of the flowers that are grown in Colombia are consumed by the Americans", he says.

Regarding Trump's protectionist politics, Azout has mixed feelings. "We are positive regarding his attitude towards trade within the US. However, his attitude towards global trade might become a concern for Colombian growers", says Azout. Currently, Colombia has a free trade agreement with the USA and if Trump decides to re-negotiate this trade agreement and put duties on the flower imports, the flowers will become expensive and thus less attractive for American consumers.

However, according to Azout, this is not the most likely scenario. "The possibility that he will lower taxes to create more internal trade is more likely than re-negotiating the FTA with Colombia. At the moment, the Americans receive a very good product, for a very good price, which they probably cannot produce themselves. So, we are not planning to rush headlong into other markets."

Also according to
Gonzalo Luzuriaga of BellaRosa, the USA is an important market. "It has been and will continue to be an important market for Ecuadorian flowers. For this reason, we have not considered looking for any alternative markets. Now we are waiting to know, in practice, which will be the economic and foreign trade policies promoted by President Trump."

"We consider that, at least as far as roses are concerned, there is no local production that can replace our product, therefore we believe that instead of increasing any type of taxes to these imports, it could rather decrease certain rates that are paid nowadays in the USA."

"We are confident in the business vision of the new President, and we see his opening of the dialogue with countries like Russia, which are also a potential market for our product, as positive."

Canadian ornamental grower Ed Vermolen is not fearing for the trade between the US and Canada. "Yes, it is true President Elect Donald Trump talked about tearing up NAFTA. However, our relationship is interwoven, many generations deep", says Vermolen. "To give some facts: Canada is America’s largest trading partner, trade amounts to more than 2 billion in goods and services daily, we are the largest foreign supplier of oil, natural gas and electricity, 75% of our population is within 160 kilometers of the US border and we export more to the state of Michigan than to the European Union."

Vermolen agrees with Scotty Greenwood, senior adviser to the Canadian-American business council, who said the following: “Remember the president-elect is not an ideologue. He’s a deal maker. He knows a good deal when he sees one. When he is talking about ripping up NAFTA, he’s thinking of Mexico and the loss of American manufacturing jobs to that country. Not Canada.”

"It’s 45 days to Christmas, Poinsettias are just starting to sell, the Helleborus flowers are starting to peak up out of the soil, the Hydrangeas are in the cooler, we have Valentine’s Day rose production lined up, with Easter and Mother’s day being so close together next year growers are worried we won’t have enough product to satisfy the market needs in Canada and the US."

"And of course we would be affected, but to what extent no one knows, it’s all speculation and opinion and I choose not to dwell there. My point is our economies are so closely linked, we will continue to do business with each other under this or any other agreement."