In early February, when the sun’s rays felt unusually warm for the winter, a Korea Agrafood reporter visited a cymbidium farm located in Seogwipo City on Jeju Island.
From the very entrance to the farm, the charming beauty of yellow, pink, and orange cymbidium orchids is hard to resist. All the orchids grown here are exported as cut-flowers to Japan. They are shipped from early November to May of the following year. The peak of the export season falls on three months, from December to February.
The greenhouses are operated by Seogwipo Cymbidium Orchid Export Association. In 2006, the association was designated as an official horticultural production complex, with seven farms annually cultivating about 200,000 cymbidium orchids on 8 ha of greenhouses. Their orchids, produced on the basis of twenty years of experience in cultivation technology and selective breeding, are well-received in Japan. The association has been increasing its export volume every year. In 2014, it shipped US$650,000 worth of flowers and in 2015, the export volume reached US$800,000. Anticipating another increase this year, the association has set the target to US$1 million.
Heo Soon-jae, the CEO of Seogwipo Cymbidium Orchid Export Association, says, “Most of the association members have cultivated cymbidium for over two decades and accumulated much expertise. Still, we frequently conduct professional training sessions and invite consultants to ensure production of the highest quality cymbidium orchids."
Cut-Flowers Lasting for a Month in Appropriate Temperature
The cymbidium orchid is a type of western orchid characterized by colorful flowers. It has been attracting much attention recently as an ideal plant for air purification because it produces a greater amount of negative ions than Sansevieria, a popular garden plant grown at home. Cymbidium orchid grows well between the temperatures of 21–25°C and can survive at a temperature as low as 5°C in winter. If grown in a flowerpot, the blooming season extends for up to three months. Even cut-flowers can last for a month before withering if a proper temperature is maintained.
Until 2010, most of cymbidium orchids cultivated in Korea were exported to China where it is customary to present cymbidium orchids to wish someone good fortune in the New Year. The Chinese believe that yellow stands for fortune, pink means honor, and green means health.
However, the Chinese market shrank considerably when the Chinese government, in an effort to curb the social tendency toward extravagance, put a brake on the custom of sending cymbidium orchid gifts. With the diminution of the Chinese market, Seogwipo Cymbidium Orchid Export Association immediately turned its eyes to Japan and has been building trust with local consumers for the past seven years.
Heo emphasizes, “It is important to package cut-flowers so that they do not wither. For this reason, they are exported with plastic water caps put at the end of a stalk. We also use a special film designed to prevent evaporation of moisture in the petals, which may occur during the distribution—for example, during shipping or quarantine procedures.”
Popularity Growth Owing to the High Rate of Top Quality Products
Generally, many crops grown in greenhouses suffer damage in the summer due to extremely high temperatures. However, the greenhouses of the association are located 650 meters above sea level, on the slopes of Halla Mountain, so even in midsummer, the temperature there is about 25℃, which is optimal for cultivating cymbidium orchids. In short, it is an ideal natural environment to grow high quality orchids.
Heo says, “Farmers who cultivate cymbidium orchids in low altitudes have to move flowerpots to prevent damage from high temperatures. Thanks to our geographical conditions, we can take care of our flowers in one place. We can produce more robust flowers with less stress on the plant.”
In contrast to flowerpot exports where plants are shipped as soon as flower buds are formed, cut-flowers are harvested in full bloom and thus require a more thorough management. Instead of simply classifying the plants by color, the association categorizes them by breed, each having its own code number.
The high ratio of 3A-grade products—the highest quality of cymbidium orchids with a minimum of ten flowers on one stalk—has earned the association a good reputation in Japan. Nevertheless, the association does not settle for status quo and tries to pioneer new markets. Heo shares his aspirations, saying, “At the moment, we are focusing on Japan, the largest orchid market, but we also frequently send samples of cymbidium orchids to other countries in an attempt to diversify our export markets. The prospective markets are the US, Russia, and Vietnam and we expect to see good results in the near future.”
Seogwipo Cymbidium Orchid Export Association
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