DEAR EDITOR – With the increasing success of kava as a cash crop rewarding kava farmers with much needed income and the reported success of chocolate sales and coconut related products, I often wonder why the Solomon Islands has not developed a fresh flower market, particularly the cultivation and export of orchids.
Floriculture has emerged as an immense entrepreneurial opportunity for small and marginal farmers and a way forward to earn foreign exchange.
In Kenya, according to a recent report, cut flowers and plants represent 10.4% of the country’s exports.
In recent years $595.6 million was received annually from flowers exported to Europe and the United States.
Kenya, of course, is located a great air distance from both countries, but the Solomon Islands merely a ‘hop’ away from Australia, New Zealand and regional South East Asian countries.
The global trade in imports and exports of floriculture products from all round the world are increasing each year and production of orchids in the Solomon Islands for export could have decided advantages over those countries where labour costs are high and transport costs, such as air carriage charges, eat into profits.
Japan is development partner of the Solomon Islands and could very well assist with the marketing of fresh orchids exported from Honiara or Munda.
Thailand is an important supplier of cut orchids to Japan especially in winter (from December to February) as there are not many locally grown flowers while there are important festivals such as Christmas and New Year’s during this season. Japanese people usually use orchids for celebration and for room decoration.
Singapore has a growing and lucrative export trade in fresh orchids but labour costs tend to make the flowers costly when buying them outside the country.
There are some beautiful varieties of orchids in the Solomon Islands and a few people grow them successfully outdoors and under shade, but why not commercially for export?
There is an excellent guide book available on all aspects of cultivating and exporting fresh orchids written and published in 2007 by Simione Tukidia living in Suva. His book is titled ‘Growing and Handling cut Flower Orchid in the Solomon Islands.’
Should anyone take up the challenge of growing and exporting fresh orchids there are usually permit rules to be complied with in the country of destination,
In Australia, for example, live orchid plants entering Australia must be accompanied by an Australian wildlife trade permit obtained from the Australian Department of the Environment in advance.
The Solomon Islands I see has being able to export fresh orchids and take an increasing market share at the expense of existing producers.
Why hold back?