Inside View: May 2013

May 01, 2013
Written by Gary Jones
"United Flower Growers (UFG) held its 50th anniversary celebration in Burnaby in March. It was a fun, well organized and well attended event: high-end catering (champagne, tapas), everyone in best attire. Brian Minter was MC for the evening, in a tux no less. Growers and buyers attended, some of whom were part of the original auction in 1963. Tom Mulleder had made a wonderful 20-minute movie that included photos and filmstrips of past members and activities. It was interesting to see how the auction has evolved, from mechanical to digital clocks, and from $6,000 sales in 1963 to $45 million last year.”1

Those 50 years have obviously seen some dramatic changes both at UFG and in the cut flower and ornamental horticulture industry globally. The $45 million in sales is not just Canadian sales, since many of UFG’s sales are also now into the U.S. Nor, of course, does the $45 million represent the total cut flower sales across the whole of Canada, since UFG primarily serves the West and central areas, and some other products not included in this figure are imported into B.C. from other provinces.

But it does represent a significant chunk of the purchasing of flowers, potted plants, bedding and some hardier products by consumers in western Canada.

Globally, B.C. residents and Canadians in general might be lagging behind their European counterparts with respect to what they spend on what are often perceived here as luxuries.

Less so by Europeans. “According to figures of AMI, Germans spent in 2012 an average of 37 euros ($49 Cdn) on cut flowers (a total national turnover of 3 billion euros [$3.9 billion]). Rose is the most popular flower among Germans (38 per cent market share), followed by chrysanthemum, tulip, gerbera and sunflower. The turnover of flowering pot plants was 1.26 billion euros ($1.7 billion), one per cent more than in 2011. Orchid is the number one in this group, followed by poinsettia, pot roses, cyclamen and azalea. The turnover of garden and balcony plants went up by 0.2 per cent to 1.94 billion euros ($2.5 billion), equal to 24 euros ($31) per German consumer. The most popular plants were geranium, heather, viola, chrysanthemum and primrose.”2

Add that all up, and it comes to about 76 euros ($100) per German consumer. Looking at the big picture sales figures on Flowers Canada website, and doing some very rough number crunching, my estimate of average Canadian purchases of floriculture products is about $41 per person, or around 31 euros.
 
Does this suggest room for higher sales?

We’ll now switch to another continent: India. A new floriculture market is to be set up in the Hajo area of Assam, the first of its kind in the entire northeast of India. The government is working to modernize horticulture and floriculture in the state, and is placing the market near to an international airport, with a view to exporting.

There will be provision for both a retail and a wholesale market, and local growers will be supported in developing their new export business.

But there’s more. Director of horticulture and food processing, Timothy Hansaol, is reported via Hortibiz as saying, “Assam is the only state in the entire northeast which has been selected for the Indo-Dutch auction plan 2013-15. This is a tie-up program with Holland … ”3

Perhaps that might increase sales in Canada: a link project with Dutch growers/auctions.

There are always new things to do, new ideas to consider. After all, that’s how UFG came about all those years ago: forward-thinking growers getting together to do something new with the idea to build co-operation and increase sales.

And now, raise a glass with me to those who have worked hard and brought UFG this far. Well done everyone. Here’s to the next exciting 50 years.
  1. Thanks for notes from instructor Ron Marchuk, who attended on behalf of Kwantlen University.
  2. Vakblad voor de Bloemisterij, Gabot.de.
  3. “Himalayan Mirror,” reported in Hortibiz.


Gary Jones is a faculty member in the School of Horticulture at Kwantlen University, Langley, B.C. He sits on several industry committees and would welcome comments at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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