Floriculture: Sunshine Industry of the Philippines

Ornamental plants are part of Filipinos’ everyday living, cutting across very diverse culture, religion, and political landscape. There is always a pot or two to brighten up the household, or a bunch of flowers to adorn the altar. Like in many other countries, flowers are given to someone as expression of love and affection; it is a perfect gift to console the weary or to celebrate a victory.

The floriculture industry was once dubbed the sunshine industry of the Philippines. That was in the late 1990 when this once stagnant industry made a turnaround to become a promising industry. From an annual total cut flower production of 8,120 metric tons in 1990, it grew to 22,671 metric tons produced from 1,586 hectares in 2003. The 20.63 percent production growth rate over a period of 14 years was reason enough for the government, as well as the private sector, to take a more serious look at this emerging industry. There were more activities that ensued. More government funds were poured into research.

The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) funded 243 researches from 1990 to 2001 aimed at production, varietal improvement, protection and pest management, postproduction, socioeconomics and marketing, and integrated R&D.

Today, there are efforts to consolidate the acts of both the government and other stakeholders to gain a headway. Proof is the ongoing exercise to consolidate all fragmented strategic action plans made in the past into a unified industry strategic plan (ISP) of the Ornamental Crops Industry as embodied in the Philippine Agriculture 2020. This effort was initiated by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) with two of the agencies under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) and the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD) spearheading its consolidation and development.

The plan was intended for presentation to the President of the Republic in July 2005 and subsequently become the fundamental guide in crafting the future of the industry.

Current Industry Situation

The floriculture industry in the Philippines started as a home yard operation and evolved into a regular profitable business activity for many small and medium entrepreneurs. The expansion of the various industries such as real estate development, the growth of the tourism industry and the increasing demand of neighboring countries for ornamental products spurred further the growth of the industry.

The country is endowed with good soil and climate that allow growing of ornamental plants all year round. Tropical plants can be grown in its vast lowlands while selected highland areas are ideal for semi-temperate cutflowers. It has forests still teeming with endemic plants waiting to be explored as potential plants for commercialization. It has both skilled and unskilled manpower ready to provide technical and labor force with competitive wages.

Except for some cutflowers, there has been no comprehensive census of the other product lines (cutfoliage and live plants). Partial data show that in 1993, 1,416 hectares had been planted to ornamentals. For the same year, about 10 million dozens of cutflowers such as orchids, rose, chrysanthemums, gladioli and anthuriums with an estimated retail value of at least I billion pesos were produced. The inclusion of ornamentals in the national census started in 1992 but considered only a few cutflowers hence, no available national baseline information could be cited for the other product lines.

Domestic Production

In 2000, the aggregate production of cutflowers reached 8.38 million dozens covering 975 hectares. On the average, the country’s production of the same cutflower types from 1996 to 2000 was 8.13 million dozens annually planted in an area of 808 hectares.

Chrysanthemum ranks number one in terms of production volume with 10,610 mt contributing 46 percent of all cutflowers produced in 2003. Rose, orchid, daisy, gladiolus, and anthurium follow in that order.

The total area planted to cutflowers in 2003 was 1,586 ha. Chrysanthemum likewise occupied the top position with 337 ha (Table 1). Over a 13- year period (1990 to 2003), gladiolus occupied about 30 percent of the total cropped area. This is due to its being planted in the field. The other cutflowers are commonly grown in pots and usually under protected growing.

The Philippines is an archipelagic country with various climate types. The principal centers for ornamental production by region include the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Western and Central Visayas, and Northern and Southern Mindanao, each having a peculiar growing condition. Among the cutflowers, chrysanthemum is largely produced in Central Visayas (86%); rose and gladiolus in the CAR (43% and 83%), respectively; and orchid (93%) and anthurium (25%) in the Davao region.

Aside from cutflowers, some of the economically important foliages are dracaena, cordyline, pleomele, murraya, microsorium, philodendron palm, and aglaonema. Live ornamental plants that are used either as potted or as landscape materials are orchids, bromeliad, mussaenda, medinilla, aglaonema, heliconea, palm, freycinetia, and ginger. The total production volume of potted or live plants is estimated to be five times higher than that of cutflowers as these are often used as indoor or landscaping plants.

The Philippines’ cutflower and ornamental plant industry is dominated by small growers. In Davao, the average farm is 2.36 ha. The largest farm devoted to cutflower and ornamentals is 11.5 hectares while 3.5 hectares are used for landscaping such as palms. The smallest reported area is 0.1 hectare. In Cebu, 40 percent of the production is in the hands of backyard growers. In the Southern Tagalog area (CALABARZON), Cavite, Batangas, and Quezon growers operate in 7.6, 1.4, and 0.6 ha., respectively.

Domestic Demand

Flowershops and retail outlets in Metro Manila rank chrysanthemums, roses, orchids, and anthuriums as the most preferred cutflowers. The total demand for selected cutflowers in Metro Manila alone reached 3.6 million dozens in 1999. In Cebu City, florists have strong preference for roses, chrysanthemums, anthuriums, and gerberas. The other key demand center is Davao City in Mindanao although the total demand is much lower than those in Manila and Cebu. The Davao City demand is greatly for orchids and roses since Davao is a major producer of dendrobiums, vandas, and roses. The demands for foliage and flowers complement each other as the former is used as background in floral arrangements. During peak season, domestic supply falls short of demand by 30 percent. This is particularly true on All Saints Day and All Souls Day. The shortage is often filled by imported materials especially orchids from Thailand and Singapore.

Demand for landscaping materials such as shrubs, trees, and ground covers depends to a large extent on the number of new subdivisions, shopping malls, golf courses, memorial parks, and human settlements being developed. Landscape architects involved in these developments have estimated that when combined and spread over a ten-year period, the various land developments listed will occupy approximately 10,000 hectares of landscaped area which would require about 800,000 trees, 250,000 shrubs, 250,000,000 ground covers, and 2,000 hectares of turfgrass.

Philippine Exports

The highest export earnings from ornamentals plants came from other live plants at an average of USD 529,114 annually for a period of nine years (1991 to 2000). Fresh foliage is second with a value of USD 523,824. Fresh cuttlowers and flower buds are third (USD 371,281).

In terms of volume, fresh foliage was highest with an average of 564,183. Live plants (357,830 kg) was second, followed by processed foliage and fresh cuttlowers. Fresh cuttlower exports of the Philippines declined minimally at an average of 0.27 percent annually from 115.26 mt in 1996 to 104.30 mt in 2000. Likewise, the country’s export earnings from cutflowers dropped by an average of 6.91 percent annually from USD 410,030 in 1996 to only USD 249,719 in 2000 owing mainly to the effects of the El Nino phenomenon.

Author: Leonido R. Naranja, PhD, BarDigest (www.bar.gov.ph)


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