Severe frost chills nation's horticultural industry

Updated: 2014-02-14 08:19

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai and Guo Anfei in Kunming (China Daily)

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Cold weather is putting a chill on Jiang Weizhi's romantic resolve to present red roses to his girlfriend on Valentine's Day.

The 28-year-old engineer in Shanghai realizes that a recent cold snap in Kunming could ruin his plans to send his girlfriend 99 roses.

Severe frost chills nation's horticultural industry

A customer inspects a rose at a flower market in Beijing on Thursday, the day before Valentine's Day. Wang Jing / China Daily 

Severe frost in Kunming, Yunnan province, one of the largest flower production areas in China, has reduced the flower harvest by 50 percent, according to Kunming International Flower Auction Trading Center.

About 90 percent of domestic roses are grown in Kunming, and the price there is a benchmark for fresh flowers in cities across the nation.

Li Caigui, a 48-year-old rose farmer, said he maintains 0.67 hectare of land to cultivate roses, and he lost about half of his crop to December's frost.

"As supplies were slashed because of bad weather, wholesale prices for roses doubled to 90 yuan ($15) per bag, or 4.5 yuan per stem," Li said.

Severe frost chills nation's horticultural industry

A holiday that's red-hot for lovers and retailers

The 4.5-yuan rose, when sent by air to Shanghai, is traded by wholesalers at 8 yuan to 10 yuan, and then sold to consumers at around 15 yuan to 25 yuan each.

Dong Wenyi, deputy manager of Kunming International Flower Auction Trading Center, one of the largest flower trading hubs in China, said 40 million roses have been traded since Feb 1.

"The price of roses has doubled, and the price of lilies, carnations and baby's breath also jumped 70 percent year-on-year," Dong said.

Even flowers that survived the frost may have inferior quality, with paler colors and smaller petals, Dong said.

While the government's frugality drive contributed to declining sales, there is more demand among individual consumers who are buying flowers in increasing numbers for festivals, weddings and domestic decoration, Dong said.

At Shanghai's Caojiadu flower market, one of the city's largest downtown fresh flower wholesale hubs, the price of roses shipped directly from Kunming spiked to an 18-year high in the week leading up to Valentine's Day.

Wan Yutang, a rose wholesaler who has been working in the industry for decades, said the price surge surprised him.

"When supplies were ample last year the lowest price for a single rose was less than 1 yuan. Now, even the lowest-grade red rose from Kunming is traded at around 8 yuan each," Wan said.

Wan said he traded about 2,000 bags of roses in the week before Valentine's Day last year, about 40,000 stems of the flower.

With the soaring prices, Jiang, the Shanghai engineer, may have to reconsider his options. A bunch of 99 roses might cost 1,200 yuan this year, while in 2013 it cost just 600 yuan.

"In the past, giving a large bouquet of roses was not a problem for me. It was affordable, but this year I think the price is insane. I could buy her something that lasts longer with the same money, like a pair of shoes or a piece of jewelry," Jiang said.

Many of Wan's peers are purchasing other flowers and hope that consumers will like them especially for the Lantern Festival, which also falls on Feb 14 this year.

Liu Juan, the owner of a florists in Shanghai, said business is slack.

In Nanjing, some consumers are opting for peonies or imported roses from South America to replace domestic roses.

"Imported flowers may be more expensive per stem, but their blossoms are larger than domestic roses, so a smaller number of stems still makes a presentable bouquet," said college student Wang Yinan.

He paid 500 yuan for 10 peonies for his girlfriend.

In Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, florists are marketing a sweet "rose-themed bouquet" to replace the traditional ones.

"Chocolate roses can also express love but won't cost as much. Also, the chocolate is delicious," said Cui Haiyan, who runs a florist's in the city.

Despite the high price, Yue Dong, a 31-year-old middle-school teacher in Shanghai, will still give roses.

"I think I'll give a box of blooms instead of a large bouquet. A box is more handy, presentable, and with nine roses it costs about 400 yuan," Wang said.

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