|An increase in the price of flowers has affected business at a market in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Unusually cold weather this winter in Yunnan province has caused a spike in the cost of flowers in many cities. (Photo/China Daily)|
Unseasonal cold damages flower harvest, causing prices to spike
Unusually cold temperatures in Yunnan province this winter have led to a spike in the cost of flowers, hitting farmers and buyers nationwide.
The southwestern plateau region grows at least 70 percent of the flowers sold at Chinese marketplaces.
Yet yields have fallen sharply after Kunming, the provincial capital also known as "Spring City", had its heaviest snowfall in 10 years on Dec 15, sending the mercury below freezing.
While many people were celebrating Christmas Day on Wednesday, Yunnan farmers were lamenting the irreparable frost damage to 9,330 hectares on which flowers are grown - one-sixth of the province's flower-growing area.
According to the Yunnan Department of Agriculture, the direct economic loss will be 228 million yuan ($37.6 million).
Li Shuquan, a flower farmer in Qujing, said he and many neighbors had built makeshift greenhouses with thin plastic film, but they were not enough to protect the flowers against the snow and frost.
"The plastic protective film became red after the roses withered and lost color. The roses on 2 hectares are dead now," the 45-year-old said. "My family will have no income this season, and we've lost about 80,000 yuan. All we can hope for now is a good harvest in March."
He said no one expected such cold weather in Yunnan, because the province usually enjoys a warmer climate in winter, making it perfect for growing flowers and fruit.
In cities such as Qujing and Pu'er, agricultural technicians helped farmers by watering trees during the day to slow down the temperature drops at night.
"Some varieties were simply killed by the frost," said Zhang Li, deputy general manager of the Dounan International Flower Market, in Kunming's Chenggong district.
"About 1.6 million to 1.8 million flowers were traded each day at my market before the snow. Now only 600,000 to 700,000 flowers are being transported to market."
He said the shortage in supply tripled the wholesale prices for most flowers by Dec 14 - roses were going for 6.88 yuan each on Thursday, compared with less than 2 yuan during the first two weeks of December.
The effect brought flower prices under the spotlight in other major cities, including Beijing, Nanjing and Hefei.
Hu Shiwen, a trader at Runfeng Flower Market in Hefei, Anhui province, said his profit margin for roses had been cut at least 30 percent because of the higher prices and the shortage.
"The highest price acceptable for consumers is about 70 or 80 yuan a bunch, or 7 yuan each. Otherwise, people just give up and turn to other presents for friends and family," he said.
The effect of the snowfall in Southwest China was felt in Shanghai, too.
"Most of the flowers are at least twice as expensive due to the extreme weather in Yunnan, and we've been forced to accept much lower profits than before," said Wei Xiao, a sales assistant at a flower shop in the city.
Gu Yidan, founder of Chujia Flower Shop in Guangzhou, said: "The price of red roses increased five times compared with the previous year, while the prices of other flowers doubled or tripled."
Yunnan also exports flowers to Southeast Asia and Russia, where the prices might also see a dramatic increase due to diminished supplies, said Zhang of the Dounan International Flower Market.
He predicted that prices will remain high until March, when the new season of flowers goes to market.