Flower Power: How floriculture brings a ray of hope for Odia farmers
Flower market in Odisha is blooming. Considering the growing demand for flowers in the State owing to new trends in wedding decorations, corporate parties and festivals, more and more farmers are coming forward to take up flower cultivation at a commercial level.
Annually, the State’s flower trade is estimated to be around Rs 200 crore now, according to reports of the Horticulture wing of Agriculture Department. Of this, the share of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar markets is Rs 150 crore and the two cities have over 300 florists, both small and big. A decade back, the annual trade was pegged at just Rs 20 crore to Rs 50 crore.
Although Odisha continues to depend on West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Bangalore to meet 70 per cent of the overall flower demand, the rest is being grown in places like Khurda, Berhampur, Tangi, Nischintakoili, Rourkela, Jharsuguda, Boudh, Sambalpur and Koraput.
“There is a large scope of developing the market for flowers in Odisha and farmers are realising the benefits of it now. The flower business in the State has seen drastic changes in the last one decade,” says secretary of Ganjam Flower Growers Association, Sridhar Verma. The Berhampur Flower Market, biggest in the State, handles over five tonnes of flowers daily and crosses the 20-tonne mark during wedding season and festivals.
In places like Khurda, Tangi, Jharsuguda, flower cultivation is polyhouse-based. Polyhouse is a 250 square metre protective shade of polythene in a bamboo structure. At other places, the flower crops are grown in open fields. Government has set up polyhouses in 20 acres of land on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar for flower cultivation.
The Horticulture wing, on its part, has been emphasising on high value and low volume flower crops. It has been urging farmers to set up green houses for flower cultivation, supplying them with seeds and planting materials besides providing 50 per cent subsidy to start projects in floriculture. This has helped draw entrepreneurs into the sector.
As far as demand is concerned, while exotic flowers like Dutch roses, orchids, Birds of Paradise, carnations, lilies and gerberas are mostly sought after for marriage decorations, flowers like marigold, water lily, jasmine, China rose and aparajita are used for rituals. Market sources say rose occupies 10 per cent of the market share and marigold makes up for 40 per cent of the flower market business.
“Weddings in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar are witnessing new trends, particularly when it comes to decorations. There are people who will not hesitate spending Rs 50 lakh just on flower decorations at wedding venues. Orchids and liliums are a new trend here,” says Rakesh, an employee of Ferns & Petals, Bhubaneswar.
While prices of exotic flowers fluctuate depending on their quality and season, Dutch roses are sold at Rs 10 to Rs 15 each stem. The peak seasons for flower business are wedding seasons, New Year, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Orchidarium in Offing
One of the most sought after exotic flowers in the State is Orchid, which can stay fresh in vase for a month. The markets in Twin City of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar consume around one million pieces of orchids during the peak season. Price of each stick of orchid costs between Rs 75 and Rs 200, depending on the variety and quality. However, the demand for the flower is met from Bangalore and Pune. Currently, the State has an orchidarium at Gudugudia in Similipal Biosphere Reserve, maintained by Karanjia forest division, which houses 66 species. But this does not meet the market demand. Another orchidarium is currently being developed at Rambha in Ganjam district by Florence Flora, a Bangalore-based group. The group has taken 25 acres of land on lease of which orchids are already being grown in five acres of land. “We are hopeful that the group would provide around 10 lakh orchid pieces during peak seasons to the Twin City market from next year onwards,” said Sushant Ranjan Das, Assistant Horticulture Officer.
However, the new trend in floriculture is not without challenges. Two of the primary problems being round-the-year supply of flowers to buyers and delivering them to faraway markets. Although farmers have started growing flowers, they are still not able to meet the round-the-year demand of buyers, which is why they prefer procuring flowers from neighbouring States.
“The flower market is still not streamlined as only about half of the commercial flower farmers have agents or links with federations that collect and transport flowers from farms to markets. The rest are dependent on local markets,” said secretary of Ganjam Flower Growers Association, Sridhar Verma. To make things worse, there are just about a handful of cold storage units for preserving the flowers for a longer duration.
Subrat Prusty, an entrepreneur who first started a large-scale floriculture project in four acres of land in Ugratara, feels the Government should provide more know-how training on floriculture to interested farmers and market information at regular intervals besides looking into logistical support and market linkage to rev up the business.
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