Bloom time

The busi­ness of flori­cul­ture in PNG

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“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.

The PNG

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. ■

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