KARACHI - If government extends support to the Karachi University (KU), it can earn millions of dollars by exporting tissue cultured plants especially flowers to the foreign countries, as the KU has potential to produce plants and flowers of different species in a huge quantity. However, the HEJ, Research Institute of Chemistry, KU is providing tissue cultured orchids to the local market at one-tenth of the market prices; while various five-star hotels in Karachi and Islamabad are also provided flowers by the KU. The trade of flowers has become a lucrative business all over the world, while tissue culture of the KU are capable of producing fine quality of flowers including orchids, which is at the second position in the list of top selling flowers. Presently, there is US $ 2,000 million world floriculture trade involving orchids. The orchids are marketed both as potted plants and as cut flowers. According to the statistics of International Trade Centre, the value of cut flower exports increased by more than $300 million between 2003 and 2004 to $5,051,039 million. Netherlands is the largest exporter of the cut flower, having alone $2,900,000 million, which is 58 percent of total cut flower exports. The KU has two research institutions, including HEJ, Research Institute of Chemistry, KU and AQ Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, where tissue culture facilities are available. Tissue culture is the method used to produce disease-free plants, and is means of mass production of plants in a sterile, controlled environment. The Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, when contacted by The Nation on Wednesday, said that it could be a lucrative industry with help of the government. However, there is dire need to educate people regarding the importance of the tissue culture technology, which can be used for the increase of corps' production and quality in the country, he said. "There is an urgent need to setup a marketing department to promote and sell products like tissue cultured flowers, produced by the varsities online with western world; as Dubai is pretty nearer to Pakistan, so quality flowers sand plants can easily be exported to earn much-needed foreign exchange. In a situation in which the country facing great economic crisis, such type of economic activities at the varsity level can help the country's economy. Despite of the government grants, the public universities are required to generate their own resources to fulfill their financial needs," he added. Acting Director of International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, KU, Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry said that the increasing production of flowers was made only because of the modern Tissue Culture Technology; half of more than 200 commercial Tissue Culture laboratories, throughout the world, micro propagate orchids and have helped in revolutionise the orchid industry in several countries. He said that Pakistan is agricultural country, which has been blessed with variety of climates. According to a study, there are about 2,000 estimated species of medicinal plants of which 400 are extensively used in traditional medicines. The HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry of varsity is the only institution that is working on the same frontier, and has established first orchid tissue culture laboratory. This laboratory is operational on five different genuses of orchids with special emphasis on Dendrobium. It is using state-of-the-art tissue culture technology to effectively yield orchids. There are three green houses having thousands of orchids plants. At the institute, 17 varieties of orchids are being reproduced through tissue culture technology and most of them are Dendrobium. The flowers are being supplied to the local market at one-tenth of the market prices; various five-star hotels in Karachi and Islamabad are also provided flowers by the lab. The HEJ is in fact the merely producer of orchids in Pakistan at such a large scale. The division is also providing technical training and collaborative facilities to other labs that are working as beginners in tissue culture." He said that there was need to promote such business at the government level, but, unfortunately, our higher-ups and economic-policy-makers were unaware of this lucrative industry. "In term of launching a trade of flowers and orchids at national and international scales, the achievements of the HEJ institute regarding the subject can easily be utilized. The Export Promotion Bureau of Pakistan and other related government departments could play vital role in promotion of the floriculture industry in the country by spreading the awareness among the entrepreneurs about this new emerging business frontage," he said.