Friday, November 09, 2007

Sikkim in talks with foreign players for floriculture hub

image PUNE: If things go well, then Sikkim, the Himalayan mountain state strategically located along the border with China, could get foreign investment in its floriculture industry.

The state government is in talks with the Orchid Growers’ Society of Thailand to sign an MoU, under which training will be imparted for various aspects of the floriculture industry, ranging from plant material supply to the marketing of the produce.

Although Sikkim, has been trying to promote its floriculture industry, there was no major progress. Despite being declared the Agri Export Zone for orchids in 2002, the state sent a meagre 1,000 cut flowers to test markets in the Netherlands, last year. It expects to export one lakh cut flowers by March 2008, focusing on Dubai, which is the nearest market.

With 80% literacy, coupled with an unemployment rate that is higher than the national average, the state thinks that floriculture could be the panacea for solving its socio-economic problems. “Because of the high literacy in the state, the propagation of technology use required in the floriculture industry will be easier.

In addition, the white collar touch associated with this sector should attract the educated unemployed,” said R Telang, secretary, horticulture and cash crop development department, Sikkim. But the real force behind the industry will be the women workforce in the state, added Mr Telang.

Thailand is emerging as the leader in the export of orchids. The proposed MoU, will cover training, transfer of technology, supply of planting material and most importantly the marketing of the flowers. “The inputs in marketing would be most crucial,” said Mr Telang. However, the Orchid Growers’ Society of Thailand is still considering the proposal.

Apart from inviting foreign investment, the state government is already in the process of funding three export oriented projects, of which two are for cymbidium orchids and one for anthurium.

The state is also organising an international flower show in March next year. The geographical location of Sikkim, which allows it to do away with artificial temperature controls for growing flowers, is expected to give it production cost advantage over other orchid growing nations like Holland and Australia.

The production cycle advantage could also prove helpful to the state. Traditional orchid suppliers in the international market cannot produce during months of extreme cold, whereas the production season in Sikkim is November-March.