Cuttings Farms Solidify Broker Relationships

Costa Rica’s Florexpo has joined forces with Ball Horticultural Co. and GroLink will no longer be an intermediary for Athena in Brazil.

Ranked at No. 10 on our Top 10 Cuttings Producers report, Florexpo produces between 150-180 million cuttings a year in more than 100 acres of greenhouse production. While its market leadership is in perennials and groundcovers, Florexpo also produces annuals, succulents, herbs and grasses.

The farm started out as a cut flower producer and switched over to cuttings and developed that business in North America through a partnership with broker McGregor Plant Sales in Carlsbad, Calif. The program then expanded to include sales with additional brokers, McHutchison and Gloeckner, while McGregor coordinated marketing, variety selection and trials.

Florexpo recently dropped McGregor and picked up Ball as a broker partner. "After careful review of our existing relations with brokers, our board of directors decided to continue doing business with McHutchison and Gloeckner. In addition, they also decided to establish a close working relationship with Ball," says Florexpo’s Production Manager Fernando Altmann, Jr. "Florexpo will produce the perennials Ball used to produce and Ball will sell our combined offering with the Florexpo brand. Both companies bring incredible strength to this synergistic agreement. Working together, we believe we will be able to produce the best and largest perennial program in the world."

Mike Klopmeyer, who is general manager for Darwin Perennials at Ball, says the partnership will dramatically increase Ball’s presence in perennials and support its expanded offerings. “Florexpo is clearly the leader in unrooted perennial supply and came to us as a distribution company,” he says. “We look at it as a way to jumpstart our perennials business, bringing perennials to market.”

The priority this summer is securing business for the coming year. Longer term, Florexpo will have the opportunity to produce Ball’s genetics. “When you get into the vegetative business, you need to have the volume and momentum built. More volume can drive economies of scale,” Klopmeyer explains. “We won’t have to reinvent the wheel and build our own production. Florexpo sells a ton of cuttings. They are doing something right. They were a very good competitor and we’re glad we’ve joined forces.”

In response, Cathy McClintock, president of McGregor Plant Sales, says this move by Florexpo last week was abrupt and disruptive for its customers, as McGregor had just printed its catalogs promoting Florexpo as a supplier to take to the summer trade shows. She says the past few years had been turbulent with changes of management and ownership at Florexpo, and as Florexpo weathered the global financial crisis. While Florexpo started developing a competing sales organization, McGregor secured backup production farms to assure grower customers’ needs would be fulfilled in Europe and North America.

“We were more than a sales organization to Florexpo,” she says. “I did everything I could to help them as a partner. I stood by them the best I could up until they sent the letter.” Moving forward McGregor is working with breeders and cuttings farms to line up production for the next season.

We also caught up with Paul Gaydos of Athena about the changes related to GroLink, a propagator in Oxnard, Calif. Both GroLink and Athena are owned by a group of Dutch cut flower growers. While GroLink specializes in propagating crops that cannot be imported – chrysanthemums, dianthus and ipomoea – Athena is an offshore producer of specialty annuals and tropicals. The farm, which is half owned by Lucilene Anatriello and her husband in Brazil, started out supplying chrysanthemums to Europe.

Before, all orders placed by brokers were fulfilled by GroLink’s sales organization. Now brokers will be working directly with Athena and GroLink will no longer be an intermediary."It’s business as usual. The people are the same," Gaydos says. "Just the billing and logo will be different."

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