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Friday, Oct 29, 2004

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Anthurium — a flower with potential in domestic, global markets

G.K. Nair

Anthurium plants being grown in a green house in Kerala's Thrissur district. — K.K.Mustafah

Kochi , Oct. 28

THE demand for anthurium cut flowers in the domestic and world market is so high that there is a tremendous potential for India, but to tap this market the country must step up production.

Between 1999 and 2002, the demand has grown by about 38 per cent. The demand, on the other hand, for flowers such as rose and carnation have increased by 18 per cent during the same period.

"Anthurium is one of the top 10 cut flowers sold in the Netherlands Auctions and the market potential for it is excellent both in India and abroad," Mr T.V. Gopinath, a Madikeri-based planter, who is a member of the National Horticulture Board (NHB) and a consultant to the Kerala State Agriculture Department, told Business Line.

At present, he said, the growers were not able to meet even the local demand. "It is an excellent floriculture crop for commercial projects and the farmer could earn a minimum of Rs 5 lakh per annum per acre and the demand is ever increasing," he said.

"We are unable to meet the local demand so much so the prices are higher than what we can get through exports. I have an export order on hand for 10,000 stems per week from Japan with advance payment and yet I cannot supply even 100 stems despite the fact that I have over 1.25 lakh plants on my farm of six acres in Madikeri in Karnataka and it is the largest in the country," claimed Mr Gopinath, who is also a consultant to four new units of eight acres in all.

"We have over 25 growers in Kodagu," said the founder-President of Coorg Floriculture Association, who has been promoting its cultivation for the past five years. The Kerala Government has appointed him as its consultant for setting up an anthurium farm at Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district and the project is under implementation.

The extent of cultivation currently in the country is about 20 hectare only and that too it is localised in Kodagu with very small areas in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Maharashtra.

As this flower cannot be grown in extreme climates as it is a tropical flower, it is best grown in areas having a temperature of 15 to 32 degree Centigrade. "We can grow this in areas where temperature is between 15 and 35 degrees Centigrade and having RH of 60 to 75 such as in certain regions of Karnataka, Wyanad, Idukki and Palghat districts in Kerala, Nilgiris and Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu and the North-Eastern States and in Bastar district in Madhya Pradesh," he said.

The cost of cultivation per acre would come to about Rs 40 lakh, the main cost being that of planting material, which constitutes 75 per cent of the total project cost, he said.

Although a green house will be of advantage, the cost will go up further by another Rs 12 lakh. "We grow them under a shade house only. The Union Ministry of Agriculture gives 20 per cent subsidy on the total project cost through NHB," he said.

"There is excellent scope for exports to Japan, West Asia , Singapore and EU countries," he said.

On the other hand, there is unlimited demand in the country also. "We are not able to meet it now and we need more growers". The demand is growing at the rate of 25 - 30 per cent per annum. "When I started my farm in 1995 with 3,000 plants I found it difficult to sell, but today the situation has changed".

He said there was necessary infrastructure at the airport for exporting cut flowers. The only problem "is that we have no flowers for export". However, the main constraints encountered by the growers are high cost of imported planting material at Rs 100 per plant of 8 - 12 cm length, and secondly high cost of airfreight within the country and outside, he alleged. Therefore, he urged the Government to provide subsidised air freight both for domestic and export consignments besides extending subsidy on the import cost and abolishing import duty.Anthurium flower, if cultivated as a commercial crop for export and the domestic market, would create employment opportunities, apart from developing an agri-business both as small and large enterprise, he added.

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