Flower business in full blossom for traders


A customer buys flowers at Kunming Dounan Flower Market in Yunnan province in August. [Photo by Wang Ru/China Daily]

Wang Xiuhua began planting flowers in Dounan village, Yunnan province, in 1989 after she saw other residents grow plants and sell them. Prior to that, she lived by planting vegetables, which was more labor-demanding and could only produce enough profit to feed her family.

Back then, there was no market and she had to transport the flowers to street vendors by bike. Her husband also sold their flowers in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, to boost his income. Later, other villagers followed their example and gradually formed a "flower street" in Dounan subdistrict of Kunming.

In 1995, to better meet demand of both planters and customers, the local government set up the first flower market, which later evolved into today's Kunming Dounan Flower Market, Asia's largest fresh-cut flower trading market.

Wang's family continued to grow flowers and sell them in the Dounan market. In 2005, 16 years after their start, her family earned enough money to build a six-story house. She gave up planting flowers in 2013 and has been engaged with flower transportation. "Flowers have changed our life. With the development of the flower business in our subdistrict, as long as we keep diligent, we can make a lot of money," says Wang.

In 2001, the Kunming International Floral Auction Trading Center, as part of the Dounan market, was established. This heralded flower auctions entering the Chinese market. Since then bulk trades are conducted in the center. The number of flowers sold can reach 3.5 million each day, and during festivals like Qixi, or Chinese Valentine's Day, the number can reach 7 to 8 million, according to Wang Yang, a manager of KIFA.

Besides bulk trading, flower retailing is in full swing in the Dounan market, which has become a popular tourist attraction in Kunming. Every evening at around 8:40 pm, vendors flock to the market and set up stalls, turning the area into a vibrant night market in just several minutes.

Vendor Wu Yongrun, 34, rents a stall in the market for 600 yuan ($87.9) a month to sell lilies. She buys the flowers from local farmers every morning, then her husband sends flowers to customers with large orders, and she sells the rest in the market at night.

"I sell flowers from 8:40 pm to around 11 pm and can earn 200 to 300 yuan a day on average," says Wu.

Born in Zhaotong city, Yunnan, Wu left home and worked in Kunming in her early 20s, before engaging in the flower business in about 2010 when she found she could earn more.

College student Yu Zhouzhou, 21, from Changsha, Hunan province, visited the market with her friend when they traveled to Kunming in August.

"Dounan flower market is really famous, and many travel strategies online recommended it, so we visited it," says Yu.

"There are so many types of flowers, and they are very cheap. I bought a floral hoop and a bunch of baby's breath, and only spent 10 yuan. I noticed there was also mail service so that people could buy flowers and send them home by post directly, and that is very convenient."

According to Dong Rui, a chief operating officer at the Dounan Flower Group,"There are altogether 30,000 households engaged in the flower business in the Dounan market up to 2019, and on average their annual income increased 4,500 yuan in 2019."

But although Yunnan's climate is suitable for growing flowers, the flower business can be subject to extreme weather changes. In this year, a 68-year-old flower farmer surnamed Yang says she suffered an 800,000 yuan loss.

"I have been growing flowers for more than a decade, and used to make good money, but this year is quite special.

"On the first day of the Lunar New Year, heavy snow damaged the greenhouse of the flowers, and thus many flowers died. The recent frequent downpours in Kunming also flooded many flower fields. I still remember the first heavy rain lasted for a whole night, and in the morning, only a small part of the top of the greenhouse was visible in the water," says Yang.

Many flowers of farmer Bi Qianqian died in a heavy frost in October, and the pandemic also influenced transportation of flowers earlier this year. Suffering from the loss, she feels disappointed, but still came up with the way of livestreaming to promote the sales.

"I just livestreamed how we labored in flower fields for about one or two hours each day since February. I guess people felt bored staying at home at the time, so many of them watched our livestreaming," says Bi.

"The effect was good. Normally I only receive about 20 orders each day, but through livestreaming I received about 500 a day. In the future, I want to learn more knowledge about flowers and e-commerce, so that I will do better in business."

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