C.J. Punnathara

Kochi, June 8

KANAN Devan Hills Plantation Company Ltd is transferring 10,000 cymbidium orchid plantlets from the tissue culture lab to the greenhouse plant-beds in Munnar.

"Cymbidium orchids have been chosen because they are ideally suited to high altitudes, humidity and semi-temperate climate of Munnar, and its flowers have a ready market in Europe, especially in France and parts of West Asia," Mr T.V. Alexander, Managing Director of Kanan Devan Hills Plantation Company, said.

The Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute is actively involved in the project and has helped in narrowing down the orchid choice, as well as in rearing and multiplying the plantlets in its laboratory.

"The institute has also identified a few more orchids, which have a ready international market and we will soon rear and multiply their flowers for exports," Mr Alexander said.

French consultants had visited Munnar to evaluate the topography, climate and terrain before finalising the choice of species suitable for growing in these conditions.

But the foray into floriculture by Kanan Devan is not restricted to orchids alone, but extends to other cut flowers such as roses, astromeria and carnations as well.

Mr Alexander said the orchids project was for three years since they will yield flowers only from the third year. But the company will be introducing roses, astromeria and carnations, which will yield returns from the first year.

In fact, company officials have visited the Netherlands and three teams have come from there to evaluate the land and growing conditions.

The company is on the verge of signing a technology and buy-back agreement with a Netherlands firm, before venturing into large-scale floriculture operations. According to the consultants, both foreign and domestic, who have visited Munnar to appraise the floriculture project, the region offers one of the best agro-climatic terrain in the world for growing roses, according to Mr Alexander.

"Floriculture is highly profitable business in case you have the right technology and buy-back arrangements."

The company expected floriculture to contribute 10 per cent of the total profits in the first year of operations.

"The company is also exploring the possibility of growing and nurturing medicinal and aromatic plants, as well as vegetables for the export market. It is also exploring the possibility of growing some exotic fruits, which are exclusive to the temperate zone. This will fall within the horticultural project of the company. At the end of five years, the company hoped to have 50 per cent of its profits from non-tea business," Mr Alexander said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 9, 2005)
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