You’re Going To China? Really?

Delegation of American Flower Farmers Return From Trade Mission To China

Do you really think there is opportunity for American Grown Flowers in China?

Why bother with exporting to China when there is so much work in our own market?

You can’t possibly imagine American farms will be able to compete with Chinese production, can you?

Lane DeVries of Sun Valley Floral Farms and Robert Kitayama of Kitayama Brothers arrive Beijing as part of a delegation of American flower farmers.

I’m not sure I would qualify these as “frequently asked questions,” but these are some of the logical questions that were asked before our delegation’s departure to China last week.

And for good reason.

Considering the current climate for trade relations, the known cost of production for U.S. farmers and high tariffs currently in place for importing to China, what could possibly make this trade mission an opportunity for serious consideration by our farmers?

Certified American Grown hosted two seminars for floral industry wholesalers, importers and retailers while in China. Members of the American Grown Flowers delegation pictured left to right: Jim Omoto of Kendall Farms, Mel Resendiz of Resendiz Brothers Protea, Cathy McClintock of Kendall Farms, FJ Trzuskowski of Continental Floral Greens, Lane DeVries of Sun Valley Floral Farms, Christy Hulsey of Colonial House of Flowers, Robert Kitayama of Kitayama Brothers, Diana Roy of Resendiz Brothers Protea and Kasey Cronquist of Certified American Grown.

Resting on these reasonable assumptions, you couldn’t justify the trip.

However, it is our first-hand accounts, previous experience and recognized opportunities that had us returning to China.

Each farm sent product to showcase at each seminar. FJ Trzuskowski of Continental Floral Greens stands by his table during the trade seminar in Beijing.

 

A number of the attendees join our delegates for a photo after the seminar in Beijing.

Christy Hulsey provided design demonstrations with Certified American Grown Flowers for attendees.

In 2017, our farms returned from an exploratory mission and found that, despite conventional wisdom, opportunity for American Grown Flowers existed in China. In fact, since that time, our farms have already begun selling into the country.

Unlike the exploratory trip in 2017, this most recent trip was for market development. Certified American Grown hosted two seminars featuring American Grown Flowers and a presentation of floral design by floral designer Christy Hulsey. The seminars were attended by wholesalers, importers, retailers and floral designers. Over 50 people attended each of the seminars, providing our farms the opportunity to showcase their flowers and discuss business opportunities within the Chinese floral market.

The final two days of the trip included a visit to the Chinese growing region of Kunming. China enjoys massive production. China boasts over 1.3 million hectares of fresh cut production, growing over 12 billion stems per year and generating over $22 billion. Over 180,000 farms grow for the cut flower industry, with the average farm just under an acre of production. Many of the large farms are over 20 hectare. We visited two such farms on our visit to the Kunming region.

The American Grown Flowers delegation while in Shanghai.

 

Certified American Grown Administrator Kasey Cronquist kicked off each program with an overview of the Certified American Grown program.

Our delegation met with the general manager of the Yunnan United Floral Transport & Marketing Co, otherwise known as FLY. They were established in 2002 and they represent approximately 80 percent of the production sold within the industry. They manage the floral auction, which operates much like the Holland auction did.

Our visit to Kunming Yang Chinese Rose Gardening Co. provided our delegation with first-hand insights into both the current production and future expectations for the floral industry’s expansion in China.

 

The delegation toured flower markets in Beijing, Shanghai and Kunming.

Ultimately, optimism for opportunity for American Grown Flowers continued to grow throughout the week. Despite high tariffs, a rocky trade environment and an enormous amount of local production in China, niche opportunities to present American Grown Flowers as high-quality, sustainably grown and produced by great flower farmers in the United States do exist.

The idea of selling American Grown Flowers into China at a better price than our farms might get in the United States may sound counterintuitive, but if it can be done, it would sure help our farms at home grow.

We’ll see where the next steps take us, but based on all that our farms learned and experienced, this week’s trip was invaluable.

The delegation visited Kunming, China’s flower growing region. China has over 1.3M hectares in cut flower production.

About the Trade Mission: 

This trip was developed out of a USDA Foreign Ag Services grant program. Certified American Grown received a Market Access Program (MAP) grant and a Quality Samples Program (QSP) grant to return to China to develop market opportunities on behalf of our farms. A delegation was formed and the group left on June 23 to host seminars on American Grown Flowers in Beijing and Shanghai. The group traveled to Kunming to learn more about the industry and its growing regions.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.