Dr. Atif Riaz, Asmat Karim, Dr. Adnan Younis, Dr. M. Qasim
Revenues earned from traditional agricultural business have dropped progressively over the past 5 years. This has forced many growers to diversify from traditional agricultural enterprise, where several horticultural crops have played a significant role in the modification process to maintain profitability. Among horticultural crops, business of ornamental plants has a great trade potential both in domestic as well as export markets.
The production of ornamental plants is widely spread throughout the world, and more than 140 countries are involved in business. The total consumption of ornamental plants was about 14.2 billion dollars in 1990, some 21% higher than in 1985. In 1995, this market was increased to about 19 billion dollars and rose to about 25 billion dollars in 2004. Further growth is expected due to the growing expendable income in a lot of regions in the world. Under the upcoming WTO regime ornamental plant production is increasingly being regarded as a viable and profitable diversification from the traditional field crops and there is an increased willingness to adopt new techniques available in the area. This expanding demand for potted ornamental plants worldwide provide an opportunity to Pakistan to produce and supply good quality plants to the Gulf region that lies in our close proximity. The enormous genetic diversity and versatile human resources offers Pakistan a unique scope for diversification into ornamental plants, which were not explored to a greater extent earlier. The ornamental plants industry is a profitable business. However, as with many other farming enterprises that appear be very simple on the surface, the ornamental plants nursery business is very complex and requires a great deal of knowledge and skill not only in production, but also in labor management and marketing. It is a very diverse business, and like any other business, the probability of success depends on knowledge of plants, media, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, machinery, pruning, harvesting methods, over wintering techniques, packing, shipping practices, determination, planning and good management practices. Production of ornamental plants in urban and periurban centers is particularly suited for small-scale farming due to short crop cycles, high labor input and only small land area required for effective cultivation.
One crucial and very initial factor that is often under-estimated is the amount of money that is required to produce salable plants. A thorough financial plan must be made prior to construction to see if capital is available to make the nursery a success. It is very important to know your own cost of production. If you simply set your selling prices from other producers catalogs, you may be selling your plants below your cost.
Quality is also an important factor of the whole production and distribution chain, and an initial step of development. It is an intangible characteristic for many consumers and is perceived by value, prestige pricing, quality packaging and labeling. The quality of the plants is determined both by its external and internal qualities. Externally, the plant should have a good appearance, free from all bruises, the colour should be clear and no insects or disease attack signs should be visible. To attain the quality, good growing practices need to be practiced including media selection, water and fertilizer application, pest and disease management etc. Most of the ornamental plants in Pakistan are raised outdoors in field-nursery production systems which results inferior quality plants, which has less demand in the international market. For best adaptability and hardiness, better to choose high-quality planting material. Highly quality patented varieties are available from contracted growers or suppliers.
Quality plants production requires a basic greenhouse to propagate and retain plants. Greenhouse also extends the growing season and production of more plant varieties. It can be used for production during extreme winter and summer or whenever the weather is not conducive to growing outdoors. Certain plants varieties like many indoor ornamental potted plants can be grown only in greenhouses, while others require greenhouse protection for short growing seasons.
Ornamental nursery production is viewed by many as an alternative crop to failing traditional farm enterprises. However, many potential producers do not realize the skill and knowledge required to produce a quality nursery crop in the field. Training and manpower development is also another important area, which will assume criticality in future. There are very limited institutions contributing to the training of people in this particular enterprise and still a lot is needed. The use of information technology and, particularly, Internet for trading should also be promoted. Although flowers are cultivated in the country from a long time, no clear data are available on a regular basis for many horticultural crops including floriculture. The absence of data renders it difficult to plan the development of the sector. Information on the sociological, economic, ecological and anthropological factors and constraints affecting and limiting consumption, production and marketing of ornamental plants in urban and periurban areas is only sparse or not available at all. Various technologies for house plants production are available but have to be modified, adapted and tested under the special urban environments. In order to develop a marketing strategy, it is fundamental to examine the market environment in the target markets and the distribution channels at the level of wholesalers and retailers as well as to evaluate the consumer attitudes and perceptions towards new or improved products. This can be approached through identification of distribution channels, determination of commercial potential, development of commercial quality standards, consumer selection criteria, and marketing testing.
The other measures include more focused attention on the hubs of ornamental plant production and marketing, a very close linkage between governments, research institutions and flower growers, assistance for market development, provision of infrastructure (which is extremely critical for Floriculture), reduction in air freight charges, reduction in interest rates by Banking institutions, waiver of excise duties on domestic sales and very focused research on key areas. It will help to flourish this high earning business to its maximum potential.
About author: Dr. Atif Riaz is working as Assistant Professor at Institute of Horticultural Sciences, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. He is specialized in the field of Floriculture and Landscape and currently working on development of a sustainable landscape strategy for stress conditions including, drought, salinity, and temperature extremes, by using plant species tolerant to these stresses. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org