The business of floriculture in PNG
“You do not want to mass-produce flowers and then find out you cannot sell them due to over-supply or lack of markets,” he says.
Igrew up in a small village called Wagang, about 50 kilometres from Lae, and the annual Morobe Show at the city’s showgrounds was part of my childhood.
Every year, I saw the displays of cut flowers at the horticulture pavilion, but I never paid much attention. I thought the cut flowers were on display for the expatriate community in Lae to buy and decorate their houses.
Many years later, I worked as a forest researcher for the Papua New Guinea Forest Research Institute, based at the National Botanical Garden (NBG) in Lae.
Although my work was focused on trees, I sometimes walked through the NBG to see the orchids, cut-flower species and other ornamental plants.
In recent years, there has been a lot of enthusiasm in the art and business of floriculture throughout PNG, and the NBG has become the main source of orchids and other cut-flower species for Lae residents and nearby villagers.
I have relatives who sustain their livelihood growing and selling cut flowers. They are subsistence farmers, juggling gardening and floriculture.
My brother in-law David Apollo and his wife, Hereadai, grow and sell cut flowers at Nasuapum village, along the Lae– Nadzab road in Morobe Province.
The little money they earn from cut-flower sales puts food on the table and pays for other necessities of the family, says David.
Floriculture is one of the easiest businesses to start, he says. “You clear a piece of land, plant a few cut-flower species, and you are on your way. Then you regularly tend the flower garden and cut your flowers for sale, with no intensive management or extra costs involved.”
Cut flowers are not heavy, but a wheelbarrow is handy to transport them to the roadside for sale. David and Hereadai do this every Saturday morning.
They have attended shows, workshops and trainings on floriculture in Lae. They say the training has been helpful.
“I learned the basics of the business at the training, but most of the floral arrangements I do now are my own improvisations,” says David.
David and Hereadai have been hired to do floral arrangements for small businesses that have contracts for office decorations in Lae. They also had a short stint supplying cut flowers to a florist in Port Moresby, but they could not continue due to the high cost of air freight.
David says there is potential to venture into large-scale production of cut flowers, but there must be regulated markets. government is promoting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and wants citizens to be involved in a wide array of businesses. The government wants some 35,000 SMEs by 2050 to fulfil the goals of Vision 2050.
Floriculture is one SME that people can take up to fulfil the vision and, in particular, is an activity that promotes the idea of women in business. It is mostly women who are currently involved in floriculture in PNG.
There is potential to supply cut flowers to Europe, but research is needed to find out about the products that are supplied from Africa and South America. PNG cannot compete directly with the more-established African and South American sellers by offering what they sell. We need to have niche markets that are uniquely ours. ■