Colorful Winter Flowers that Thaw the Cold
Crab cactus blooms in white, pink and red flowers all through the winter. Its name is derived from the claw-shaped ends of the stems. In the US, the plant is often referred to as a “Christmas cactus” because its blooming falls in the Christmas season. It is also sometimes called “Denmark cactus” because the plants are profusely cultivated in Denmark. NASA selected crab cactus as one of the 50 air filtering plants because it cleans the air very well. The plant releases much oxygen and absorbs high rates of carbon dioxide. These days, the cactus is catching on in the home gardening field as it has been found to be effective for removing of formaldehyde, a representative cause of SBS (sick building syndrome), and absorbing harmful electromagnetic waves emitted by home appliances such as TVs.
One Korean family farm is receiving attention as a successful cultivator and exporter of crab cactus to Japan. The owners of the farm are Mr. Hong-Chul and his wife, Mrs. Lee Kyung-soon. They run the Hong-Lee Green House in Paju-si, Gyeonggi province. When a Korea Agrafood reporter visited the farm for an interview last month, the greenhouse was filled with thousands of colorful crab cactus flowerpots waiting for shipment.
Producing and Supplying Mini-Cyclamens Customized for Buyers’ Orders
In fact, Mr. Hong is a renowned master of cyclamen cultivation in Korea and is the current Chairman of the Gyeonggi Association for Cyclamen Research. Mr. Hong devoted his youth to floriculture. He started cultivating cut roses and chrysanthemums in the mid-1970s and in 1999 turned his attention to cyclamens.
Mr. Hong searched for information on the flowers on the internet such as abroad university websites and travelled to the Netherlands and Japan to learn the cultivation techniques in person. From the early stages, he also put a lot of effort into automating the cultivation facilities to lower the production costs and increase the efficiency. In a multi-span greenhouse 3,960㎡ in size, he installed automatic ventilating fans, nutriculture sub irrigation beds, and state-of-the-art supplementary lighting facilities. The multiple thermal screen vents on the roof and sides open and close automatically, creating the optimal environment for growing flowers.
With the high-quality flowers grown in this favorable environment, the company succeeded in entering the Japanese market in 2001. The export volume last year recorded 18,000 mini-pots 8cm in diameter. Mr. Hong says, “Our partner Japanese buyer visits the farm two to three times a year and places orders after checking one by one the number of floral axes, their length, and the shape of the leaves. The key to keeping a longtime business relationship is to supply to a buyer the merchandise he wants on time.”
A New Challenge - Crab Cactus
The trust that the Hong-Lee Green House had built with overseas buyers served as foundation for exporting the crab cactus. Mr. Hong brought cutting slips of the cactus from Denmark and started the cultivation in 2009. Through a regular buyer, he sent the samples to Japan and they received a favorable response in the local market. In 2010, the farm became the first in Korea to export 4,000 pots of the crab cactus. Last year, it shipped overseas 9,000 (12cm) pots and 4,400 (10cm) pots. The prices for the plant range from USD$2 to USD$3. Cutting of imported slips is performed from January to February. The shipping begins in October and continues until December. From this year, Mr. Hong plans to export the plants in the spring as well. The crab cactus currently growing in the green house were cut last summer, and it was decided that 1,200 of them will be sent to Japan around April to test the response and receive feedback from the market.
Success Factor - Earnest, Wholehearted Efforts
What is the key to the success of this couple, whose annual income surpasses KRW200 million? When the Korea Agrafood reporter asked this question, the farmers replied: “being earnest and working wholeheartedly.” Mrs. Lee added, “Our answer may sound run of the mill, but in cultivating plants, even a little neglect shows on the flowers immediately. So the real key to success is touching each plant one extra time and examining it one more time.”
Mrs. Lee described her husband’s working style: “Once he decides to do something, he won’t stop until he completes the task, no matter what difficulties he meets on the way.” And he continuously takes up new challenges. “That’s why he’s got so much grey hair,” she jokes. Korea Agrafood hopes that the beautiful cyclamens and crab cacti grown by this couple with all their hearts will deliver joy and happiness to even more overseas consumers this year.
Inquiries Hong-Lee Green House
Tel +82-18-788-6906, +82-31-952-6906
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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