The changes caused by COVID-19 have major consequences in Ontario. After 6 weeks of lock-down, the new normal starts to take shape. People can only go out to the supermarket to buy food. The demand for plants has decreased. Since garden centers are not officially an essential business, most garden centres closed their doors in March. They could only sell via curb-side pick-up (order and pay by phone) or click-and-collect (buy online and pick up in the parking lot).
Florists are also closed. Older people no longer want to go to the shops, others have insufficient income or prefer to keep their money in their wallets. After entering the lock-down in week 12, our plant sales fell to 16%. After 6 weeks, sales slowly increase to 50%.
We can still go to work in the greenhouse, but we cannot force employees to come to work. For health reasons for themselves or their family members they may consider not to go to work. The government pays companies 75% of the wages to keep employees on the job, even if they do not work.
Also, students who work in a summer job from May 1 to September 1 to earn their tuition will receive $ 1,250 a month from the government and are advised not to work as long as they feel unsafe.
Off-shores (foreign seasonal employees) were not allowed to fly at first. And when that was allowed again, they had to be quarantined for 14 days after arrival at the expense of the employer. The result is that agricultural companies have 50% fewer employees to get the job done.
The federal government has put support measures in place to mitigate the financial consequences for companies. To guarantee cash flow, an interest-free loan of $ 40,000 is available. For farms that are in serious trouble, an interest-free loan of $ 400,000 is possible. Finally, there is an already existing safety net with additional support measures for emergencies, such as a natural disaster or mis-harvest.
In the meantime, we are still receiving new plants. There is always a place for small plants. No physical distancing for plants. We have stopped flower induction treatment for Bromeliads for 6 weeks and are now inducing 50%. In this way we extend cultivation and wait for better times.
Since we do not grow Hibiscus, we have extra space in the greenhouse. As a result, we also have less volume to sell in April and May. There is less to pack and deliver. We don’t have to rent a truck. A silver lining after all. Together with the reduced demand, this results in an unusual period. We can now sleep in the weeks before Mother’s Day.
Angelle van Kleef
Grower of pot plants in Ontario, Canada
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