Flowering business

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Many people are taking up floriculture as business and some are doing well, though a lot needs to be done to improve the trade which is in its infancy. Saima Riyaz reports.

Flowers have their own language. They are a greeting in happiness and a consolation in sadness. And these are used as, and for, decoration. Though there is little tradition of giving flowers in Kashmir, many people are successfully venturing into cut flower business.

“Unlike other places, Kashmir does not have a tradition of giving flowers as gifts. A few people may take flowers along while visiting the sick. Here, flowers are used in marriages or parties for decoration purposes. But commercial floriculture has made its way to the economy of Kashmir and flowers are cultivated in natural as well as under controlled conditions by both, government and private growers,” said Syed Parvaiz Qalander, owner of three flower farms situated in the vicinity of Srinagar.

Various varieties of flowers are grown in Kashmir, which are mostly exported to markets outside the valley. Though, a large number and variety of flowers grow in the valley, commercial floriculture is just a few years old here.

“The department (of floriculture) is there from 1969 but commercialization of floriculture is only two and a half year old. Growers as well as employees working in the department are new to the trade and all are in the learning process. We grow short duration cash crops and the trade is picking up,” said Sunil Misri, Project Officer, Cut Flower Project, Department of Floriculture, Srinagar.

People, in the flower business here, mostly grow gladilieus, marigold, alstroemeria, lilium, carnation and tulips as there is a ready market available for them. Five lakh Marigold sell in Jammu every day. Experts say, if these were allowed into Vaishno Devi shrine, the demand would double. Mishri estimates that flowers worth rupees two lakh sell in Srinagar during marriage season, three fourths of which are imported from Delhi.“Future of the business is bright provided proper policy is applied,” he added.

Surprisingly, the quality of flowers grown in Kashmir is better than those produced in Europe, even when the seed or the bulbs are procured from those places.

“The lilium bulbs imported from Holland last in a vase for ten days, does not have aroma and their shelf life is also less. The same flowers cultivated here have aroma and stay fresh in a vase for 22 days. A team of florists from Holland wondered how these flowers got aroma and long shelf life,” says Parvaiz Qalander.

Flowers are also grown in winters under controlled conditions. Kashmir produces a large number of tulips,as the low temperatures are ideal for its bloom and long shelf life. Temperature between 12 to 14 degrees Celsius is good for the flower and temperatures above that cause problems for the flower.

“We are mass producers of tulips compared to India or even Asia. It remains at least for 22 to 25 days depending upon the temperature it is exposed to in its flowering period,’ said Misri.

However, private growers say that Kashmiri florists should focus on other flowers. “Tulip lasts for few days and in India it sells on very few occasions. Instead of Tulip, rose which is presented on almost all occasions, would be a better choice,” opines Qalander.

The cut flowers are exported to markets outside Kashmir through courier services and by road, which is costly and unreliable.

It costs Rs 40 to courier 20 lilium to Delhi raising its cost and eating into the profits. Some growers sent their produce to outside markets by road but none to international markets.

“International market pays well but demands a perpetual supply of top quality flowers. Our trade has yet to reach those standards. Let us suffice the market of our state before we think of exporting cut flowers to West or Middle East,” said Sunil Misri.

As the business is in its infancy, there are many issues, which the growers in the private sector say need to be resolved for giving a boost to the trade.
“Commercial floriculture needs to be given practical exposure. People from the field, not academicians, should train growers,” said a grower wishing not to be named.

Many other growers flayed the idea that setting up of a one or two green houses are profitable. Volumes are synonymous to progress, they say.

“Forty green houses in collaboration are beneficial then setting up of four individually. Irrigation, operation, marketing, monitoring cost will be low; security won’t be a problem as two watchmen are required whether you have four or forty green houses. Profit will increase and you will have a decent volume to sell,” said Parvaiz.

However, the officials say that the government also wants this business to be run by a cooperative.
“The assistance is readily available provided people approach their respective districts, meet our officers there, get informed and chalk out the plan under which they will work,” said Misri.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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