[OGD] production / California and Taiwan team up

  • From: viateur.boutot@xxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: orchids@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 01 Jan 2010 14:28:06 -0500

"relationship between Taiwanese and California entrepreneurs...

Sogo, one of Taiwan's largest orchid producers and known for its... array 
of varieties.
A couple of decades ago... an orchid plant could cost as much as $2,000 
[!!!] in the United States.
Taiwan's hot and humid climate is perfect for early stage orchid growth.
But the "spiking" process ? the budding and blooming of orchids ? needs 
cooler temperatures...
So the young plants are shipped to California, where the cool coastal 
climate is well-suited for the blooming
"It's the perfect marriage of the best place to create an orchid plant and 
the best place in the world to spike an orchid," said Marc Clark...
of Salinas-based Rocket Farms...

The cross-Pacific business model came about after government officials in 
Taipei petitioned the United States Department of Agriculture to allow its 
farmers to ship orchids to America in sterile sphagnum moss, instead of 
bare root.
Growers in Hawaii filed an injunction against allowing a change in the rule 
that bars the import into the United States of plants in any state but bare 
root from most countries to prevent the spread of pests.
But six years ago the USDA sided with Taiwan.

"Being able to ship them on ocean containers revolutionized the business," 
Clark said.
"If we had to do it by air, they would be cost prohibitive..."

Rocket Farms was one of the first growers in the United States to order 
phalaenopsis orchids from Taiwan in large quantities.
That 15-day trip across the ocean was a nail-biting experience, Clark 
recalled. "When we first brought them in, we didn't know if they would 
survive the journey."

In fact, all survived.
Baby orchid plants taking root in moss turn out to be far hardier than 
bare-root orchids.
Shipping orchids embedded in moss dropped transportation costs from about 
$1.50 per plant to 20 cents, said Clark, who began to cultivate a 
partnership with Sogo in 2005.
He has since brought in hundreds of containers with minimal plant loss.

Taiwan has applied its production model for technology ? in which products 
are produced for overseas companies ? to the orchid industry, said Erik 
Runkle, a floriculture specialist at Michigan State University. That has 
made orchids abundant and affordable, he said.
According to the USDA, revenue from orchid sales in 2008 were $137 million...
Those numbers, though, are based only on sales in 15 states and experts say 
annual revenue... are much higher.

Clark expects his company to sell about 2 million orchid plants this year, 
up from about 1.5 million sold last year.

Prices have plunged so fast, though, that orchids could become a commodity 
products, which happened to the poinsettia industry and drove a lot of 
growers out of business, said Charles Hall, an expert in international 
floriculture at Texas A&M University.

"I'd hate to see that happen to orchid growers," he said.
"I think initially we may see a bipolarization in the industry ? on the one 
hand, there will be smaller growers producing very high quality orchids for 
high-end retailers, and on the other hand there will be large growers 
selling smaller but perhaps very uniform orchids to the mass market."

At the Yu Pin Biotechnology Co. in Chiayi, Taiwan, Chairman Chiang-Kuei 
Feng boasts of reducing early stage orchid growth from 14 months to as 
little as 10 months, when the plants are shipped overseas at the size of 
3.5 inches each.
His company also improved the survival rate of plants to about 90 percent.
This not only guarantees larger harvests, it also reduces energy costs.

"Only Taiwan has this kind of technology," said the chairman, whose company 
produces seven million orchid plants a year, 2.4 million of which are sold 
in the United States.

Taiwan has done more than cut costs.
Using traditional breeding skills and the latest cloning techniques, 
farmers have created an array of exotic orchids.

Yu Pin has greenhouses that cover 30 acres.
At the company headquarters, a facility the size of a half-dozen football 
fields is fully automated.
The insect-free greenhouse is regularly inspected by USDA representatives.
Workers must pass through two separate doors into completely sealed 
A sophisticated computer system is used to monitor and rotate thousands of 
plants at different stages of development.

"They crossbreed them and crossbreed them until you get this orchid that is 
perfect ? great color," Clark said of Taiwanese growers.
"Then they clone it."   "

URL : http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_14103306



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