New seeds of innovation needed for flower growers

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While China has the greatest combined plantation area for flowers in the world, few of the varieties grown are native to the country or have domestic intellectual property rights, according to industry experts.

“China has held three world horticultural expositions over 12 years indicating that it has huge potential in the floral industry,” said Li Feipeng, executive deputy director of Yunnan-based Jinyuan Flower Co Ltd, one of the country’s largest companies growing and selling flowers.

But “due to lack of innovation in developing new varieties, Chinese flower companies are in a weak position in international markets”, he said.

While 145 new varieties had been cultivated in Yunnan province by the end of 2010 – more than 80 percent of the nation’s total – only three met the standards needed for international protection.

China now has about 1.5 million households that make their living by planting flowers, but “most of the varieties they plant are imported”, Li added.

As a result, flower growers have to pay royalties to foreign companies, part of fees paid for seedlings.

“Of the cost of each foreign carnation seedling, 0.06 yuan ($0.0093) is charged as a royalty, and 0.1 yuan for each rose seedling,” said a businessman in the Kunming Dounan flower auction market.

“As one of the largest in China, the Dounan market sells nearly four to six million flowers a day. The total royalty is considerable,” he added.

Despite the enormous number of flowers sold – about 2 billion yearly – most varieties grown in China are old. Some have even been phased out in foreign countries, so most Chinese flower companies are at the low-end of the industry chain, experts said.

Now “they realize how innovation can make significant differences in the traditional sector”.

Authorities in several Chinese provinces and cities have accelerated the innovation of new flower varieties through expanding investments.

Kunming’s proprietary flower varieties are projected to account for more than 15 percent of the total sold in the city by 2015, according to a city industry development plan.

“Jinyuan has established a flower R&D department with more than 20 specialists. To date, 23 new varieties with intellectual property rights have been created, making the company a leader in the field,” said Li.

“These varieties will help Chinese companies reduce their dependence on imports,” he added.

“As long as we keep up in research and innovation, China’s floral industry will have stronger competitiveness and attract more attention in the global market.”


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