A GROWING flower market offers a good opportunity for farmers who want to diversify their sources of income. While cultivating major crops and vegetables, farmers’ interest in floriculture is growing fast.
The actual figures of flower cultivation (acreage being insignificant) in Sindh are not available with the provincial agriculture department. However, the high commercial value of flowers — now produced on small scale and an expanding market) — is attracting farmers.
Managing flower plantation is somewhat easy because diseases and insects remain within controlling limits. As rose is more commonly used on different occasions and celebrations in daily life, it the preferred by the farmers. Rose is grown in Hyderabad and its surroundings. Instead of taking their crop to market, growers sign deals with contractors who pay them a fixed amount per annum.
Rose plants yield flowers for around five years, but with better doses of farm inputs the yield could last even for seven years. Its cultivation on an acre costs around Rs100,000. Picking continues throughout the year, with production responding to seasonal variations.
The ideal season for better output is between March and August. Contractors pay Rs200,000-300,000 per acre annually to landowners irrespective of the price in the wholesale market but they often delay payments to growers.
Owing to lack of cold storage facilities, post-harvest losses are significant. Given their fragile shelf life, flowers are traditionally preserved with ice till they reach the market
After rose, tube-rose, gardenia and marigold are other common varieties with varying costs of production. Their marketing is easy as compared to gladiolus.
All these varieties are sold in the local market. Owing to lack of cold storage facilities, post-harvest losses are significant. Given their fragile shelf life, flowers are traditionally preserved with ice till they reach the market.
Nadeem Shah, a floriculturist, says rose marketing is easy and it has export potential for herbal medicine and essence-making. Traders export dry rose petals. However, handling tube-rose and cut-rose is difficult as they require careful plucking and packaging.
Cost of production for different flowers varies and for gladiolus it runs into Rs300,000-350,000 an acre as its imported seed is expensive. Around 70,000-90,000 bulbs are grown on an acre and, according to farmer Azam Rind, 70pc germination is normally achieved successfully.
The tube-rose’s production cost is Rs75,000-100,000 per acre. Its picking lasts two successive years. Red rose cultivation costs a farmer Rs100,000 an acre, with multiple pickings for five years and average 40kg output per acre. Prices often fluctuate from Rs40/kg to Rs400/kg depending on the seasonal demand.
Ghulam Asghar Leghari, who cultivates gladiolus on 20 acres, claims he is the biggest producer of this variety in Sindh. He estimates that gladiolus is being grown on 200-300 acres across the province.
Azam Rind started cultivation of gladiolus on two acres and has extended the area to around six acres. He says it is a short duration crop and matures in three months’ time for a limited market.
Growers lack required knowledge for gladiolus cultivation and depend on imported seed till the first sowing. They avoid cultivating flowers where underground water is unavailable, fearing irregular supply of irrigation water.
Gladiolus’s first crop recovers the cultivation cost and seed (bulb) obtained from the harvest reduces expenses for the next production. Initial cost of a bulb is Rs7-8. The price of one stick of this flower is Rs11-12, which goes up to Rs25 especially during Dec-Feb season.