Prospects of flower business at home and abroad
Md. Joynal Abdin
The Financial Express on October 03, 2014
Flower is a widely used product around the world. Global export of Cut flowers and flower buds for bouquets, fresh or dried (H.S. 0603) was UDS 7375,7680,8387,8480 and 8442 million in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. Top 10 Cut flowers-exporting countries are the Netherlands, Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya, Belgium, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Italy, Germany and Israel. Top 10 Cut flowers-importing countries are the United States of America, Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Russian Federation, France, Japan, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland.
Bangladesh exported Cut flowers, worth $16.58m, during July-November 2013 into a few destinations like India, Pakistan, Italy, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Britain, Denmark and France. Our stake in the global trade of Cut flowers is negligible i.e. 0.3 per cent. We have good potential in the production of Cut flowers due to favourable environment and fertile land; it’s a cash cow crop for the farmers.
A March 2012 study shows that, there is demand for Cut flowers, worth about USD 8.0 million, in Bangladesh of which USD 5.0 million is locally produced and rest of the amount is imported mainly from China and Indonesia. Besides, Bangladesh imports a huge amount of artificial flowers per year to meet local demands. Artificial flowers are imported mainly from China and India.
Flowers are now cultivated in about 10 thousand hectares of land, mainly in the Godkhali Union of Zikorgasa Upzilla under Jessore district. About 4000 farmers produce mainly various types of Rose, Tube Rose, Gerbera, Gladiolus and some orchids. Sher Ali pioneered commercial flower cultivation in Godkhali in 1983. He demonstrated that Cut flowers give three to four times’ higher return than any other crop. Many farmers started to grow flowers in 4-5 villages of Godkhali Union. Currently about 1,50,000 people are directly involved in Cut flower cultivation or business in Bangladesh. Women workers dominate the sector – mainly in flower collection, sorting and packaging.
New farmers are getting involved in flower production. One bigha (30 decimals) of land can give you at best BDT 40-45 thousand per year with three crops. And one bigha of rose garden would give you BDT 100-150 thousand per year – and a rose garden may blive for 10-15 years. Therefore cultivating flowers is economically profitable for the farmers.
Cut flowers sector in Bangladesh is suffering from various obstacles. Major barriers of this sector are:
1. Little knowledge about flower preservation: Farmers use jute bags for packaging flowers. When these flowers reach markets in Dhaka, Chittagong or other divisional or district level towns, they dry up. Many flowers are wasted during transportation.
2. Absence of cold storage/cold chain to transport or preserve fresh flowers: There are no cold storage in Bangladesh to preserve or store flowers during emergency. Therefore a large amount of flowers perish in the field or market.
3. Absence of backward linkage industry: Bangladesh is producing only a few types of flowers from the inception. It is now essential to increase the variety of flowers to meet the demand of the local and global markets. But there is no system of supplying variety of flower seeds or plants to enlarge the basket. Seeds, fertilisers, preservation technology, packaging variety, i.e., backward linkage industries could energise the sector.
4. Absence of forward linkage industry: Perfume industry, herbal cosmetic industry etc. forward linkage industry of Cut flowers are absent in Bangladesh. Therefore, industrial use of Bangladeshi fresh flowers is almost zero.
5. Absence of permanent flower market in major cities: There are no permanent wholesale flower market in Dhaka, Chittagong, or any other divisional/district towns of Bangladesh.
6. Unavailability of large amount industrial loan: Cut flower growing is considered a farming activity. Policy-makers do not yet consider the industrial or commercial aspects of flower. As a result, flower growers or businesses get small amount of agriculture loan instead of industrial/SME loans. But cultivating high-priced flowers like Gerbera needs green house/sheds. Making a green house/flower shed is costly.
7. Poor knowledge about flower export: Hardly any farmer knows how to export Cut flowers. A very limited number of businesses are involved with export occasionally.
8. Knowledge about value addition: Bangladeshi flower growers/businessmen are not aware about post-harvest value addition of flowers.
9. Scarcity of other support staffs: Fertiliser, seed, polyethylene sheet, water for irrigation, new variety of flowers etc. are not easily available in the local market. Therefore, farmers find it difficult to grow quality flowers in Bangladesh.
There could be a debate whether Cut flowers are a farming or industrial product. It may be argued that as flowers are cultivated in the field, collected and sold, Cut flowers are an agricultural crop. Government agencies like Agriculture Extension Department, Agriculture Research Council etc. will promote, nourish the Cut flowers sub-sector.
But as Cut flowers are widely traded, exported, used as raw materials in perfume or herbal cosmetics, herbal medicine etc, these may be put under industrial agro-processing sector. Packaging, transportation, ware house cold storage/cold chain etc. are directly linked with the sub-sector. Therefore, Cut flowers could be considered as an agro-processed industrial product. Government agencies working to promote enterprises/industries like the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), Small and Medium Enterprise Foundation (SME Foundation) etc. could play a role to develop and promote the Cut flowers sub-sector.
Whatever the classification is, Cut flowers are a very promising sector offering higher return. So this foreign exchange-earning sector should get priority from all agencies to develop.
Following recommendations could be considered to develop and promote the Cut flowers sub-sector:
1. Teaching Flower Preservation System: Most important support to the flower growers could be teaching them how to preserve flowers for a comparatively longer period.
2. Supplying modern flower packaging materials: Non-perishable flower packaging system could help the flower growers to add more value to flowers.
3. Assisting in development of cold chain: Government/donor agencies/ development partners could take the lead in developing a preservation-friendly cold chain (storage & transport) system for the flower growers.
4. Establishing permanent flower wholesale market: City corporations, municipal authorities and district administrators could establish permanent wholesale flower markets.
5. Diversified variety of flowers could be supplied: Agriculture Research Council or other agriculturist agencies could take the lead in supplying various new varieties of flowers for cultivation.
6. Match-making: Match-making event could be organized to meet the flower growers with the herbal cosmetic companies, perfume companies and herbal medicine companies to establish forward and backward linkage between the sectors.
7. Providing higher amount /industrial/ SME loan for establishment: Easily to access loan products should be introduced to assist green house/shed building to grow higher priced flowers in Bangladesh.
8. Initiative for increasing flower export: Government agencies should be proactive to increase flower export from Bangladesh into new destinations or increase volume in existing export destinations.
Cut flower is a very promising export sub-sector. It could enlarge our export basket and increase export earnings.