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Taiwan Flowers Shining World Due to Farmers’ Diligent Work

Date:2011-04-10

After 30 years of diligent work on transformation, Phalaenopsis, Oncidium, anthurium, Lisianthus, Malabar chestnut, lucky bamboo and various Taiwan flowers are shining on the world stage!

However, the development of Taiwan flowers had a difficult “revolutionary” course. “In early days Taiwan farmers had to find a consigner who would sell for them before growing flowers because selling flowers belonged to professional trading,” noted Mr. Chang Tang-mu, general manager of the Taipei Flowers Auction Co. During those years shipments of flowers were delivered from Yongjing and Tianwei townships, Changhua County to the temporary market under the head of the Taipei Bridge for sale. “That was a time when consigners were in command and they decided flower prices. They could also delay payments for 2-3 months. Flower farmers were not only easily exploited but also had to give florists presents in exchange for their help to sell flowers,” said Chang.

The former site of Taipei Flowers Auction CO.LTD was in Pin-Chiang flower market. (The picture was provided by Taipei Flowers Auction CO.LTD) In 1975 the Taipei flower market was moved to the square in front of Wan-he Temple on Jiuquan Street because of traffic obstruction at the head of the Taipei Bridge. At the same time flower farmers expanded their planting areas in Changhua and many children of flower farmers also came to Taipei to sell flowers grown by their parents, gradually forming the Jiuquan Flower Market. Since the children of flower farmers began selling flowers, the huge difference between the actual sale of flowers and flower farmers’ income had been highlighted. Then farmers took to the street for the first time, appealing for the establishment of a privately-run company formed by flower farmers and wholesalers.

The Taipei Flowers Auction Co. was formally established on March 16, 1988, beginning operating the Binjiang Flower Market. At that time Taiwan lacked the experience of operating wholesale markets and farmers simply thought that they would form a company as stockholders and work together to sell their flowers. But the Taipei City Government asked the Taipei Flowers Auction Co. to start operating the flower wholesale market with open auction trading within one year.

“To carry out the mission, company employees in two groups were sent to production areas to hold roving seminars explaining the operation. I was assigned to the Tianzhong area but we were scolded everywhere we went because farmers did not know how to sell flowers by auction,” said Chang.

When the flower auction trading was formally started in October 1988 after seven months of preparations, it was not supported by most flower farmers and even florists were not enthusiastic about the trading. “Only the Yenpu Production Cooperative which planted ginger lilies in Pingtung County strongly supported the auction trading right from the beginning but with poor result, with auction trading accounting for a mere 1%. 99% of Taiwan flowers were still bought and sold by professional traders.”

Then winter came and the demand for flowers was usually greater during Christmas holidays and Valentine’s Day, with the retail price for roses running as high as NT$100-200 per bouquet. But since flower farmers were planting under contracts and flower prices were fixed, farmers could get only NT$16 per bouquet no matter how high were the flower prices sold on the market.

“At the end of November,” Chang said, “we communicated with flower farmers in Tianzhong and other Changhua areas, hoping they would get reasonable profits through fair, impartial and open auction trading by entering the auction market.”
Flower farmers were finally tempted and the auction price for roses gradually increased beginning at the end of November to NT$100-200 before Christmas. And flower farmers had the joy of enjoying high profit for the first time in their lives. Moreover, the buyers had to pay on the day of trading according to the auction contract and the money must be remitted to flower farmers within one week at the latest. When they were certain that payments were guaranteed after auction trading, more and more flower farmers joined the Taipei flower market.

modern flower auction market Then the government requested full control of flower purchases in 1989. In addition to auction trading, consigned professional traders and other trading methods also had to send flowers to the market for management and pay fees for auction or bargain trading. Such a policy was not accepted by underwriters and some of them quarreled about it in the market every day. In the end both sides made a concession and ended the protest by agreeing to charge management fee based on bargained prices. When realizing the benefit of auction trading, even more flower farmers and florists were willing to better understand and join the auction market.

An even more surprising development was that flower farmers have managed to grow flowers with excellent quality after the operating of this auction mechanism.

The Taipei market was the only flower wholesale market in Taiwan in the past, but now Taiwan has a more active and convenient domestic market after flower market was established in Taichung, Changhua, Tainan and Kaohsiung subsequently.

“Taiwan flowers are highly competitive in the world, with the output value of cut flowers for export totaling US$150 million at present. Taiwan exported NT$4.5 billion worth of flowers, including NT$2.5 billion for orchids. Other major exported Taiwan flowers are Oncidium, anthurium, Lisianthus and Malabar chestnut.
And Taiwan is the kingdom of Malabar chestnut, with its export volume topping the world!”

As the volume of exported Taiwan flowers increased, flower varieties have also evolved. “For example, Taiwan used to export chrysanthemum and gladiolus to Japan, but now the major export items are Oncidium, anthurium and Lisianthus as the Japanese have changed their habit of using flowers,” noted Chang. In addition to Japan, there are many advanced countries around Taiwan and, therefore, Taiwan flower export prospects for the future are bright.

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