Change in lifestyle of people has increased the demand for cut flowers products, for the past two decades. This increase in demand of cut flowers is due to increased use of cut flowers for different ceremonies in society, like weddings and birthday parties. High-quality flowers are vastly in demand.
Although cut flower is one of the best options for business, it still suffers neglect by the producers as they are not aware of the production technologies and possible benefits in terms of credits. Pakistan has better scope in the future as there is a shift in trend towards tropical and sub-tropical flowers and this can be gainfully exploited by a country like Pakistan with reasonable diversity in indigenous flora and climatic conditions in different regions.
Due to the varied agro-climatic conditions and relatively low cost of production, Pakistan has immense opportunities not only to meet the local demands of both traditional and cut flowers but also a high potential for export. The important cut flowers that have a known name in Pakistani trade are Roses, Gladiolus, Iris, Carnation, Narcissus, Lilies, Gerbera, Freesia (Gul-e-Farzana) and Statice (Gul-e-Sataish). Statistical data reveals that almost 10 to 12 Thousand tons of floricultural products are produced in Pakistan on an estimated area of 6880 hectares.
In Pakistan, most of the flowers are produced in winter season when Europe sinks in snow and most of the traditional functions are held during that period. In the west, the biting cold of winter months curtails flower production during fold. As this period is the prime cultivation time in Pakistan, the potential is enormousdue to favourable agro-climatic conditions, easy availability of land and cheap labour. Pakistan can earn its foreign exchange in billions of U.S. dollars through export fresh flowers and flower buds like the countries Sri Lanka, Iran, India, Singapore and Thailand where the export of floriculture products is ten to hundred times more than export of Pakistan.
While worldwide consumption has been on the rise, consumers have also become more refined in demanding new products. To meet this growing and changing demand, production has continued to move from countries that have traditionally been consumers and growers, such as the Netherlands, to other relatively new producing countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Pakistan’s export of floriculture product is not encouraging. The low performance is attributed to many constrained like: Non-availability of air space in major airlines, since most of the airlines operators prefer heavy consignment, the existing numbers of lights during the peak seasons is not sufficient for export purposes, exporters for infrastructural problem like bad interior road, inadequate refrigerated transport and storage facilities, lack of professional backup of delivery and supporting companies, which resort to high cost of technology and tedious phytosanitary certification and an unorganized domestic market.
In order to overcome these problems, attention must be focused on: reduction in import duty on planting material and equipment and establishment of model nurseries for supplying genuine planting material; cooperative florist organizations should be established at regional level and training centres for diploma courses for training the personnel in floriculture should be setup.
As compared to other provinces, floriculture is relatively better developed in Punjab due to increasing competition in the agriculture sector and the presence of major markets of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Islamabad. However, marketing of cut-flowers in these areas is still far behind due to non-availability of sufficient amount of water in accordance to its need, high percentage of post-harvest losses, inadequate storage facilities and outdated methods used in processing/packing, lack of irrigation facilities, non-availability of cold chain storage facilities and lack of appropriate packaging for floriculture produce.
Pattoki is the major centre for floricultural production and marketing in Pakistan. In recent years, flower production has also increased in Kasur and Sheikhupura districts. Other flower producing areas include Lahore, Chunian, Okara, Kallarkhar, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Narowal, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Manshara and Abbotabad. Major buyers of the cut flower are in the larger cities including Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, and Islamabad. However, marketing of cut flowers in these areas is still unorganized due to un-availability of appropriate facilities for harvest and post-harvest management.
Pakistan has a lot of potential to develop floriculture, but lack of attention by the concerned authorities has prevented growth in this sector. Attention must be focus on developing the floriculture market both at national and international level by continued development of exports of high quality flowers and bulbs into overseas markets, with special emphasis of roses for oil extraction, reduction in import duty on planting material and equipment and establishment of model nurseries for supplying genuine planting material. To strengthen the international market, exporters should plan and monitor effective quality control measures right from production to post harvesting, storage and transportation.
Pakistan needs a “cool chain” which would ensure flowers/plants to be kept in suitable environment from the moment they leave the fields to when they reach the shelves. The development of the “cool chain system” would not only increase shelf life of the floriculture products but would also reduce exploitation of growers in the hands of the buyers due to their perishable nature.
The writers are freelance journalists.