Flower business blooms in Assam
Every flower has interesting stories to tell. Stories of the people, who toil in the fields to grow the flowers; of those, who deliver the flowers to the people for use in different purposes and not just about the colours and fragrances. And, when they tell stories of a flourishing flower market in a rapidly expanding city like Guwahati they are more interesting.
Every morning a stretch of the city near Sukreswar temple is filled with fragrances of fresh and beautiful flowers of various types-Lililums used for decoration, lotus or the marigold used in religious functions, various types of cut flowers and ornamental flowers.
Some of these flowers are sourced from floriculture hub like Hajo while some flowers are brought from wholesale flower markets outside the state. The state has not been able to produce enough flowers to meet the ever increasing demand for fresh flowers in the state.
The rapid expansion of the city, both vertical and horizontal, has its own reflection on its growing flower market from near the Sukreswar temple to Fancybazar parallel to the bankline of the mighty river Brahmaputra. The growing demand for flowers in the city has encouraged many farm families in different places like Hajo, Nagaon, Marigaon in the state to take floricuture as a viable means of livelihood. However, a large quantity of flowers is still brought from outside the state as the supplies from these areas are not sufficient to meet the growing demand of flower market in the city. A field study on the demand and supply of flowers to the city’s flower market has shown that floriculture has tremondous potential for the youth of the state to explore lucrative self-emploment. The study has also revealed that the flower sellers still prefer the flowers procured from outside the state to meet the demand of flower decorators as flowers supplied by local farmers are inferior in quality.
Wholesale flower sellers of Fancybazar said that while supplies from Kolkata and Hajo meet the daily demand, various types of flowers are also procured from Bangalore to meet specific demand during special occasions and events.
Ranjan Kumar, a wholesaler and decorator says that the flowers sold by him are primarily sourced from Kolkata and a very small quanity is procured from Hajo. They primarily take up decoration of wedding venues and pandals of other events and functions. “Quality of flowers brought from Kolkata for decoration is far bettter than those supplied from Hajo. Flowers procured from Hajo cannot meet our requirment. So we prefer flowers brought from Kolkata to flowers from Hajo,” he said.
Pradyumna Malakar, who has been selling flowers in front of Sukreswar temple for past 30 years, says that flower business can be an ideal business and cites an example that the price of a lotus bud may range from Rs 1 to Rs 300 depending on the demand during different religious occasions. He has sold up to 1.5 lakh pieces of lotus in front of the city’s Kamakhya temple or Navagraha temple during religious festivals. He gets supplies of lotus from Nagaon and Marigaon while he procures marigolds from Kolkata and Hajo.
However, Chandan Kumar, the proprietor of Uday Flower Decorators says that flowers supplied from Hajo or Rangiya are also of good quality but due to limited production in these two places they have to procure various types of flowers such as lilies, different varieties of orchids, roses from Kolkata or Bangalore.
In recent years Hajo has seen spurt in floriculture production. Chakradhar Malakar, a local farmer, has been growing anthuriums and gerbera besides marigolds. He says that the flower market peaks from November to February. “Apart from their other engagements the locals of Hajo are also engaged in floriculture activities. Most of these families have a flower garden. This has been a tradition which has been passed on from one generation to the next, he says while narrating the floriculture success story of Hajo. He earned Rs 3 lakh last year by selling flowers. Malakar feels that Kolkata supplies better quality flowers to Guwahati flower market at cheaper prices as compared to flowers grown in Hajo area. He says that the flower growers have now focused on increasing production while maintaining the quality with the help of Horticulture department.
Surjyakanta Malakar, another flower grower of Hajo, says he started cultivation of gerbera but was unsuccessful as the soil quality and climate condition was not suitable.
Zopar Export Private Limited, a flower exporter, has been supplying flowers to flower boutiques of the city sinc 2005. They have their own flower gardens in Aizawl and Shillong. They business has grown from initial supply of 1000 cut flowers a day to present supply of 10000 to 15000 cut flowers a day to flower boutiques in the city. They also supply flowers to other cities including New Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Siliguri. They bring flowers to the city in refrigerator vans and supplies to other cities by air
“Demand for flowers has been growing and there is huge potential for further growth. The city has now two five star hotels which require flowers every day. Besides, flower decoration has become a fad in banks, restaurants various institutions. The demand of flower is going up with the improvement in people’s lifestyle,” says Kasem Ahmed, Marketing Manager of the organization.
In a bid to tap the huge potential of floriculture in the state the Horticulture Department has initiated a number of schemes for infrastructure development, use of modern technology and providing subsidies to flower growers to encourage them. A Centre of Excellence has been built at Khetri for Rs 5Crore to facilitate cultivations of better quality roses, gerbera, anthuriums that will fetch better prices. A similar centre has also been set up at Barama near Samaguri in Nagaon district. The department also distributed green houses and irrigation systems among the flowers of Hajo area. A fully automated V-Type nursery has also been set up at Ulubari in the city. The Department has also been laying stress in cultivation of hybrid flowers.
Such interventions by the department and initiatives by individual flower growers resulted in increase in flower production from 2,500 metric tonnes in 2001 to 20,000 metric tonnes in 2014-15 financial year.
“It is difficult to make a correct estimate of the actual demand of flowers in Guwahati market but the total annual business of this market could be to tune of more than Rs 100 crore. Production of flowers has increased in the state. However, the demand for flowers has also gone up simultaneously,” says Khagen Sharma, Sub-divisional Agriculture Officer.
Photo and Text - Manjum Mahanta and Mrinmoy Buragohain
( Manjum Mahanta and Mrinmoy Buragohain are pursuing M.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism at Tezpur University. This photo essay has been produced as part of internship at nezine.com )