Turning Hainan into a horticultural industry hothouse

By Nicki Johnson / HICN / Updated: 19:03,18-March-2023

Recently, the horticultural industry in southern China’s Hainan Province has been developing at a fast pace. Fresh cut leaves, potted plants, tropical orchids, “money trees” (Guiana Chestnut trees), off-season chrysanthemums and other fresh-cut flowers are gaining popularity on both the domestic and international markets.

An orchid. [Photo: Chen Weidong]

In the sunny, pleasant springtime, the flowers of Changjiang, Tunchang, Haikou, and many other parts of Hainan attract large numbers of appreciative travelers. Wu Linqiao, a representative of the Haikou Bougainvillea Shared Farm, explains that visitors can not only enjoy the beauty of the flowers and take colorful photos, they can also go camping and cook up some BBQ. The money they spend also helps improve the local economy.

At Dream Fragrance Hill Park in Tunchang, there are rare tropical flowers and plants to see, which can also be used to make essential oils, herbal soaps, and other gift items.

Last year, Hainan announced the first group of 17 provincial-level forest seed banks, which included two flower seed banks. The province is currently accelerating the establishment of these seed banks in order to collect and preserve forest and flower resources, and they will also serve as centers for research into the creation and propagation of improved plant varieties.

“Although there is an abundance of flower and other plant species in Hainan, there aren’t that many on the market,” said Hainan Flower Association President Yu Changlong, adding that the Hainan horticultural industry faces many problems, including that it is not professional or scientific enough, and lacks enough qualified personnel.

How can these problems be overcome? “First, plants on the market have to look attractive, and secondly their survival rate needs to be improved. They have to be better able to adapt to different environments.” Yu suggests that Hainan should strengthen investment in scientific research, and develop better tropical plant varieties. Currently, many of Hainan’s horticultural companies are working together with Hainan University and the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences to jointly research and develop new varieties for the market.

Pink Bougainvillea. [Photo: Chen Weidong]

In the past several years, Hainan’s horticultural companies have begun to take advantage of the province’s tropical climate to grow northern flowers here in the south, as well as developing over 30 fresh-cut plant varieties including lucky bamboo and areca palm, capturing over 75% of the domestic market.

Yu mentioned the example of the painter’s palette flower, which costs only 1.5 yuan per plant to grow in Hainan. Here, companies can save 3-4 yuan per plant by not needing to build the greenhouses or other basic support facilities that are necessary to grow the plant in other areas, keeping plant prices lower.

“We need to prioritize the collection and preservation of flower and other plant seed resources, strengthen support for the cultivation of seedlings, and increase the joint development of the flower industry along with study and research, creating better plant varieties,” said Yin Junmei, Chief of Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences Haikou Research Station.

At the beginning of 2023, the Hainan Tropical Flower Trading (Auction) Market officially opened, and many horticultural businesses have already joined. “This is not only a province-wide horticultural market platform, but also a way to establish industry standards,” said Yu.

Customers at the Hainan Tropical Flower Trading (Auction) Market on Jan. 18 in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. [Photo: Xinhua]

As of 2021, Hainan had a total of 188.7 square kilometers of land under cultivation by the horticultural industry, and total industry output value reached 6 billion yuan (USD 0.87 billion), with over 10,000 flower and plant related businesses employing 69,000 staff members.

Orchids growing in a greenhouse in Hainan. [Photo: Chen Weidong]

According to the Forestry Department of Hainan Province, Hainan will be developed into the nation’s largest tropical flower cultivation, plant variety propagation, product export, and tourism consumer base.

Yu Changlong believes that by taking advantage of the preferential Free Trade Port policies, Hainan is on the way to becoming a global flower resource cultivation and production base, attracting more companies and talent to enter the horticultural industry. 



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