My work as a floral designer has taken me to several countries and distant lands.. whether it was for learning in Singapore or Bangkok or for The Ikebana Masters' Seminar and Convention in Japan. Apart from learning new techniques or discovering flowers, on trips like these I realised how Indians have made flowers an imperative part of their lives. Indians not only possess a vast knowledge and intrinsic comprehension of their local flowers and floriculture but have successfully integrated them into their daily lives. In India, flowers are revered for their purity and beauty and hence used for every occasion.. be it birthdays, weddings, temple visits, decor, Shrungar or even death ceremonies. No occasion in India is complete without a floral touch! Flowers in India are like Chi.. the driving force behind all day to day routines.
However, along with a sense of pride came a revelation.. an evident lack of variety in domestic as well as international assortment of flowers. The local markets in the above mentioned cities and elsewhere were thronging with an array of local and international variety of flowers and fillers like the beautiful and fresh tea leaves, solomon's seal and the sunset hued leucodendron, that were at the disposal of the local flower designers! So, why isn't the tall Salix and Amaranthus or the deadly cymboediums and the delicate freesias available for me to play around with, in my arrangements?
It got me thinking. Our Indian subcontinent has the best of climate (Holland in Kashmir and Bangkok in Kerala), adequate rains and the soil to grow every variety of flower. We also have the cost advantage of labour and raw material as compared to many European countries, then why aren't the Indian floral markets displaying diversity? Why are our flowers half the size of the imported ones or how are their roses so perfectly sculpted?
Yes! There are certain floriculturists'in Kerala who are producing world-class orchids, heliconias and other exotic gingers like shampoos and beehive which has brought down our need for import from Bangkok but our Indian floral market is still in its nascent stage. Even a desert country like Dubai or a place like Singapore which grows nothing except orchids, are privy to multiplicity of flowers from all over of the world! The locals there enjoy and work with the best from around the world!
I realised that the Government of India has identified floriculture as a sunrise industry and accorded it a 100 % growth oriented status. India is the largest supplier of roses to Japan and Australia. India is also a major player in export of flowers to Bahrain, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, New Zealand and United Kingdom. So, it's entirely possible that the beautiful, big, long-stemmed, "dutch" roses you saw with the Italian vendor on your holiday to Venice was probably grown in India!
Most of the organized growers today are looking at export rather than domestic market mainly because of the price factor. Understandably so, as each rose stem is sold at Rs. 50 on a conservative estimate. Pune and Bangalore, the country's major rose growing areas gear-up to export lakhs of roses annually. After these export orders are met, the 'leftover' flowers which are unfit for export are then released into the domestic market.
We, Indian florists' are hit both ways as most imported flowers are not within our reach. Import duty on flowers is levied at a whopping 60 %! Coupled with freight and documentation charges, flowers like the cymboediums cost anything from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 2000 to the end consumer making it unaffordable even to the most discerning of customers.
As a small cog in the florist wheel, I take the liberty to suggest a few solutions to improve on our current floral markets. The exporters can be asked to reserve a small percentage of best quality flowers for local consumption before taking on export orders. Initially, this would bring down profits slightly but overall the exporter may cover up the cost through increase in demand and price. Spiritually also when we take something from our motherland and we give it back in some way the mother earth will lovingly support our production and lead us to abundance.
Agreed that the high import duties may have been formed to protect the interests of the local growers but it' come with its share of negative impacts. The local growers have very little understanding of flowers in the international market. Reducing import duty would prevent stagnation and also inspire local producers to grow international and expensive varieties of flowers which in-fact would benefit them in the long run thus making India a front runner in the global floral markets. It has been Flower Box' continuous endeavour to make different flowers available to the consumer and the flower-lover in general, thereby raising the bar for flower design in India. We, at Flower Box, aim to create an awareness about flower design which is at its infancy in India unlike the fashion or art industry and also teach and promote flower design . Flower Box wishes for its customers and well wishers to be able to enjoy, love and assimilate the goodness of flowers without being over-whelmed by its worth or availability.
Meghaa, floral designer and owner of Flower Box talks about her passion – flowers. You can follow her experiences as a student of Ikebana turned a florist to reckon with, to her travails of spiritual realisation through flowers on flowerbox.in or mail your feedback on [email protected]