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China's Blooming New Flower Industry Takes Root

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LINDA O`BRYON: A new industry is booming or we should say blooming in China and it promises to supply western markets in the coming years. In the southwest province of Yunan, the area of land being cultivated for flowers has increased a thousand fold since the 1990`s. Nick Mackie reports.

NICK MACKIE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Lu Ronghua was one of only half a dozen farmers in rural Dounan that grew flowers instead of vegetables 18 years ago. His 800 square yard plot produced 30,000 stems annually. And every day, he`d gather up a bundle and cycle the 10 mile long dirt track into the big city.

LU RONGHUA, FLOWER GROWER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): When I started growing flowers, there was no market here so I had to take all our flowers into (INAUDIBLE) to sell.

MACKIE: Now with 80,000 square yards under cultivation and a workforce of 50, he supplies wholesalers with up to eight million flowers every year. Dounan now has a thriving market, where 10,000 growers and traders gather early each morning. Since the mid 1990s, 1,200 households in this town alone have seen their incomes rise more than tenfold after switching from growing food, which used to generate less than $50 annually. Yunan province has 62 square miles of cut flowers under cultivation, a thousand fold increase in 10 years.

In 2005, it produced 3.6 billion stems. Ninety percent was sold to other regions in China as well as 28 markets abroad and this generated $500 million to the local economy. It was once a cottage industry that served wealthy city folk nearby. Now more than half of China`s flower vases are filled with stems from Yunan. In just over a decade, growing flowers has helped lift 20,000 families out of rural poverty. Now the province has a real industry that is competing globally. Yunan established this industry on seeds imported from Europe - for these roses and carnations aren`t native to China.

But for years, many local growers have used seeds germinated by local producers. These can be 20 times cheaper if they flout intellectual property rights. But only those who respect IP get access to foreign markets, like through this auction house. The government wants growers to go for quality, even if it means buying the latest foreign seeds as they deliver better yields and the varieties that lucrative consumers demand.

DENG CONGJUN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We need to increase our cultivated area. Meanwhile, most important, we have to raise the overall share that meets best quality so that more flowers reach the export standard and so increase the profitability of our industry.

MACKIE: Another export issue is transport. Direct flights abroad from Kunming (ph) are limited and as yet, there is no carrier with refrigerated holds. Yunan is confident that both logistics and piracy are solvable issues. It`s pressing ahead with plans to double last year`s cut flower production by 2010, to provide another Chinese product for the western markets. Nick Mackie, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Yunan province, China.


China's Flower Industry in Full Bloom


China has in recent years become one of the largest flower growing and consuming countries in the world. Currently, its flower growing acreage has reached 122,400 hectares with an annual production capacity of 2.7 billion fresh flowers and sales volume topping 54 billion yuan and exports hitting US$260 million.

Yunnan, the largest flower production base in China, takes up 40 percent of the country's flower production industry. Broadleaf plants of Guangdong and Fujian provinces, potted landscape of Zhejiang, saplings from Shanghai, prickly ball plants of Liaoning have realized scaled mass production and been exported to other countries.

As one of the countries in the world with richest resources in wild flowers and floriculture plants, China is renowned as the "Motherland of World's Horticulture".

Jiang Zehui, chairwoman of the China Flower Association said that China's flower industry is experiencing a rapid development. With its national economy enjoying a fast growth, this will help flower industry to expand its domestic needs for flowers, and along with the readjustment in agricultural structure flower industry will get a great support. Furthermore, the development of China's western areas will also provide a wider area for flower growing, and China's pending for the WTO entry will be conducive to China's cooperation with its international counterparts in horticulture and learn advanced technologies. During the "Tenth Five Year Plan" period, China's flower industry will witness a considerable development by way of scientific and technological innovation and introduction of a new system.

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