Growers hand out free orchids as China market shrivels

Growers hand out free orchids as China market shrivels

Visitors tour Air Orchid and Lab in Bang Laen district of Nakhon Pathom on Saturday, and were allowed to cut any flower they wanted, free, as a slump in exports leaves a surplus of blooms.  (Photo from Airorchid Supermarket Facebook account)
Visitors tour Air Orchid and Lab in Bang Laen district of Nakhon Pathom on Saturday, and were allowed to cut any flower they wanted, free, as a slump in exports leaves a surplus of blooms. (Photo from Airorchid Supermarket Facebook account)

Orchid growers in Nakhon Pathom gave out free bouquets after finding themselves overstocked as flower exports to China shrivel under the spread of the coronavirus.

The Thai Orchid Entrepreneurs Cooperative Co and Thai Orchids Garden Enterprises Association offered 1 million free bouquets of orchids. The freebie had to be ordered through the provincial commercial office in Nakhon Pathom, and the two agencies sent them out by mail.

The free offer started on Thursday and ended after the millionth free bouquet was ordered on Monday.

"The campaign ended yesterday (Monday)," an official of the Nakhon Pathom office told the Bangkok Post on Tuesday. "There will be no more."

Air Orchid and Lab, another orchard in Bang Laen district of the same province, also offered free orchids for visitors on Saturday and Sunday. They could cut any flower they liked during the tour of the premises.

"The Covid-19 outbreak stopped orchid exports to China just when the flowers were blooming. So we turned the crisis into an opportunity, returning our favour to our visitors," the farm posted a message on its  Facebook account.

China is a major destination for orchids from Thailand, accounting for 10% of orchid exports. Japan was the top destination last year, followed by the United States, Vietnam and China, according to Commerce Ministry initial figures. Despite ranking fourth, the Chinese market led growth, expanding 30% since 2018.

Thailand earned US$88 million from exporting almost 50,000 tonnes of orchids in 2018, according to the ministry.

The country has 200 orchid exporters and 2,000 commercial growers, most of them in Nakhon Pathom, the provincial export leader. The province has  almost half of the 20,000 rai of orchid farms in the country. Other top orchid-growing provinces are Samut Sakhon, Bangkok, Ratchaburi and Nonthaburi.

Sompong Taweesuk, the deputy chairman of Thai Orchids Garden Enterprises Association, said the coronavirus effectively suspended exports to China. The country sent about 40 tonnes of the flower to China before the outbreak, but exports dropped to only 4 tonnes now, he told Daily News online on Monday.

Thanaphat Khumvichien, the spokesman for the Thai Orchid Entrepreneur Cooperative Co, told Naew Na online on Monday the government should step in to promote domestic sales of the flower to offset the export slump.

He said 53% of the orchids grown here were exported, the rest sold to local markets.

Air Orchid and Lab hoped for a better future from the Chinese market after handing out free orchids to tourists.

"After the flowers are all cut, the plants have more strenght to produce new ones for China when the market reopens," its Facebook message said.


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