Why a Canadian flower exporter is limiting growth in U.S.

Jeffery’s Greenhouses, a third-generation flower grower and plant supplier in St. Catharines, Ont., exports 30 per cent of its products annually to the United States. So the company was watching the recent North American free-trade talks with concern. But even now that the deal has been concluded, the company is not resting on its laurels.

The flower grower exports its potted plants – hydrangeas, cyclamens, potted mums and poinsettias – to 29 Home Depot stores in Western New York. In Ontario, it sells its flowers in 55 of the home improvement stores.

So this fall, when Canada was in terse trade negotiations with Washington, there was more than a little concern among employees. With talk of tariffs and protectionist rhetoric, there were worries the company’s operations might get caught in the crossfire.

Jeffery’s has one-million square feet of growing facilities, with two locations in the Niagara region – one in St. Catharines and another in nearby Jordan Station. “We’re one of the bigger [greenhouses] says Mr. Gibson, adding that because of the company’s proximity to the border, “we’re the closest grower.”

But further expansion in the U.S. market is not in the cards. “We’ve had opportunities to expand in the U.S.,” Mr. Gibson says. But he adds that further growth there has its risks – there are numerous competitors in the floriculture space south of the border. And profits have been solid with the export plan the company is currently following, he adds.

Mr. Gibson says the company plans to focus on the expansion of its operations in Ontario. “We’re hedging our risk,” he says. “In Ontario we’re a full-service supplier. We deliver the plants, we set up the displays, we control all of the sales. We have access to all of the sales data and we can see what’s on hand, and what’s sold.”

Read more at The Globe and Mail (Anna Sharratt)

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