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Yunnan flower market blooming

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  Blooms from the nation's floriculture hub in Yunnan seldom reach major consumption areas such as Western Europe or North America, and the main reason for this is logistics. Li Yingqing and Yang Yang report.

  Cool and sporadic April rain falls on Kunming at 2 am. Most residents in the capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province are fast asleep at this time - except for those along the road leading up to the city's Dounan Flower Market - the largest in Asia - in Chenggong county about an hour's drive from downtown. Kong Weihu, 23, is one of the countless motorists waiting in cars, vans and other vehicles on the congested road. "There's always a traffic jam here at this time," he says. Every morning, Kong drives thousands of freshly cut flowers from his 6.6 hectares of hothouses 50 kms from the market. On this trip, he has more than 20,000 carnations in the van.

  Dealers will buy his flowers and transport them to various cities, and to Japan and South Korea. If the price is good, Kong may rake in more than 20,000 yuan ($3,077).

  Kong is just one of the thousands of flower traders in the market. Every morning, the millions of the flowers sent from the market through Kunming account for 80 percent of the flowers sold in more than 70 Chinese cities, Yunnan provincial agricultural department figures show.

  In 2010 alone, 4.7 billion fresh flowers were traded here, with the total transaction value reaching 3.4 billion yuan, says Huo Ran, deputy general manager of China Kunming Dounan Flower Industrial Park Development Co Ltd, which owns the Dounan Flower Market. About 85 percent of China's new flower varieties will also be "tested" in the market, Huo says.

  More than 40 countries and regions, including Japan, United Arab Emirates and Thailand, receive flowers from this market, Huo says.

  Many consider Dounan market to be a bellwether of Yunnan's blooming flower industry.

  During the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), the area for growing the flowers in Yunnan province grew to 42,000 hectares in 2010 from 16,000 hectares in 2005, provincial agricultural department figures show.

  The province's flower yield grew to 6.05 billion from 3.6 billion, leading China's flower industry in 17 consecutive years. The total annual income of the growers in Yunnan rose from less than 2 billion yuan in 2005 to 6 billion yuan in 2010, while their total output value rose from 5 billion yuan to 232 billion yuan, according to the department. In 2010, the export sales of Yunnan's flower industry tripled to $150 million from $50 million in 2005.

  While the province boasts the country's largest flower yield and leads the domestic market, it still faces difficulties in entering the international market, especially Europe, which mirrors the export situation of China's flower industry.

  "Although China's flower yield accounts for 40 percent of the world's total, our export share in the international market is merely 2 percent," Huo says.

  Yunnan's flowers are exported to neighboring countries and regions but seldom reach Western Europe and North America, the two major consumption regions for fresh flowers.

  "The biggest problem for exporting flowers from Yunnan is logistics," He Kui, deputy director of Yunnan's flower industry office, says.

  About 95 percent of Yunnan's floriculture products are transported by air, Huo says.

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