Floriculture farmers face losses, as cheaper alternatives are gradually replacing natural flowers.
By Jagriti Parakh
Plastic products have dramatically altered commercial floriculture. Large scale use of plastic flowers, especially for decorative purposes in occasions like weddings, has lowered the demand for natural ones, forcing farmers to give up flower farming.
Imports of artificial flowers from countries like China, Thailand, and Hong Kong have grown manifold in the last few years. Import Data by the Department of Commerce, Government of India, shows that import of artificial flowers has witnessed a growth of 61.40 per cent from 2017-18 to 2018-19, while the export of cut flowers has decreased by 5.36 per cent from 2017-18 to 2018-19.
Floriculture farmers suffer a great deal as decorators and interior designers drift towards artificial flower décor.
Srikanth Bollapally, Owner, Vensai Floritech, said, “Earlier during the wedding season, we used to limit exporting and almost 75 to 80 per cent of our produce was sold to event decorators. These days, only 20 per cent of it is taken up for wedding décor. Cut flowers are worse affected than loose flowers, because loose flowers are still being used for domestic purposes, for various festivals and religious offerings, but faux flowers have almost replaced cut flowers for events and interior décor.”
Many floriculturists admitted that they are facing tremendous losses, as much as 30 to 35 per cent as compared to the previous year.
Prashant Choraria, Floriculturist, said, “The loss to floriculture farmers is bi-dimensional: first, the market rates have fallen by 20 to 30 per cent against previous year; and second, the volume of sales has also decreased because of the imported artificial flowers. Artificial flowers are gaining popularity because they are cheap and reusable.”
Event managers think of artificial flowers as a one-time investment with good returns.
Vishwanath, Event Manager, said, “Some clients prefer faux flowers instead of fresh ones for event decors because they work out cheaper for them. Earlier, the wedding season used to be the most rewarding time for these farmers, but these days only the portions positioned at eye-level are adorned with real flowers; the rest is made using artificial equivalents. Although all artificial flowers used at weddings might not necessarily be cheaper than natural. In fact, good artificial flowers, which look real, are usually made of silk and can be more expensive than their natural counterparts. The good part is that we can reuse them, so it is a sort of investment.”
Artificial flowers have changed the dynamics of the market.
Mukesh Bafna, an artificial flower wholesaler at Chickpete, said, “Artificial flowers imported from China have taken over the market recently. Even during festivals, artificial flowers are in demand because prices of natural flowers increase around that time. People use plastic plants and pots for ornamental purpose because they are lightweight, attractive, and relatively inexpensive. Most malls, hotels and resorts also favour artificial plants and flowers to adorn the properties.”
Artificial flowers are ‘everlasting blooms’ and look more or less realistic and have become an alternative to Mother Nature’s originals.
Kavitha S., Interior Designer, said, “Faux flowers are the real deal in interior décor because if you use real flowers, you revel in their ethereal beauty as they bloom for some days, and then they shrivel up and die.”
Regardless of some people veering towards artificial flowers, natural flowers continue to remain special and distinctive.
Koshi Gupta, a homemaker, said, “I am really fond of flowers. I used to shop for decorative flowers thrice a week, but now I have started using artificial ones because it is convenient and cost-effective. Even though I still use real flowers when guests visit or when there’s some occasion, because you know, artificial can never replace natural in the heart of a true anthophile.”
Experts say that floriculture farmers must be protected against cheaper and foreign artificial alternatives.
Manjunatha Rao, Floriculture Scientist, said, “When people buy plastic flowers, they overlook the environmental hazard that accompanies such products. As consumers, we must be rational. We cannot completely neglect the small farmers for most part of the year and then expect them to supply fresh flowers during some season or occasion. It is our duty to protect the farmers and also the natural flower varieties.”
Conducive climatic conditions, rising demand for flowers, rise in per capita levels of income and government subsidies were some of the factors inducing farmers to shift their low-income crops to high-valued flower crops in the early 2000s, but 15 to 20 years down the line, the social milieu has changed – as climate change, market slowdown and imported products have occupied the frame.
As more and more farmers quit floriculture, area production statistics by National Horticulture Department show that area under flower farming has also decreased from 52370 hectares in 2016-17 to 32220 hectares in 2018-19, all over India. The Floriculture and Medicinal Crops Division at Indian Institute of Horticultural Research is doing collaborative work with the PPV & FR (Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights) Authority to help the farmers.