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- September 2011(issue 192)
Korean Chrysanthemums Outdo the Japanese Ones
Vivid Color, Voluptuous Petals, Long Longevity of Cut Flowers
In the East, the chrysanthemum has one of the longest histories as a decorative plant. Since olden times, the flowers - along with the plum, orchid, and bamboo - have been cherished as one of the “Four Gracious Plants” and you can see them in many oriental paintings. Chrysanthemums are also an important commercial item in the Korean flower market. Developing new local varieties of the flower plays an important role in expanding flower exports and reducing the amount of royalties paid overseas. Although Japan is regarded as the kingdom of chrysanthemums, Korean chrysanthemums, thanks to their outstanding quality, are overtaking the fame of the renowned Japanese flowers.
In Japan, chrysanthemums are purchased routinely, so some two billion of them are sold each year, which is equivalent to 30 percent of world chrysanthemum consumption. The demand for flowers is particularly big on some special occasions, such as Obon (お盆, August 15) and the autumnal equinox. Many countries are competing with each other for a share of this lucrative (the world’s biggest) market.
Japan is the biggest importer of Korean chrysanthemums. Around 1,400 tons were exported to Japan in 2008. The amount then increased to some 1,600 tons in 2009 and to 2,100 tons in 2010.
Superb Taean Chrysanthemums Grown on Red-Clay Soil in the Sea Breeze
Among the Korean chrysanthemums, those grown in the Taean area enjoy some favorable environmental conditions, like red-clay soil and a sea breeze. For these reasons, they are stealing the show and boasting hard petals and vivid colors. Taean Exporting Chrysanthemum Farming Cooperative Association, headed by Bang Young-il, is at the head of exporting the flowers of Korean cultivators.
Mr. Bang jumped into the chrysanthemum cultivation business just seven years ago, but, by employing the second crop cultivation method, he has been able to produce as many as 300,000 mums a year, including small varieties - Yes Nuri, Secret Pink, and Magic - and big ones like Baekma. Out of the total number of flowers produced, about 100,000 are exported to Japan. Yes Nuri (developed and disseminated by the Yesan Chrysanthemum Test Center of the Chungcheongnam-do Agricultural Research & Extension Service) and Baekma (developed and disseminated by the Rural Development Administration) are particularly popular in both the Japanese and domestic markets.
Mr. Bang explained that, ahead of Obon celebrations in Japan, the Taean Exporting Chrysanthemum Farming Cooperative Association starts to run out of the flowers. According to him, the main reason for such a huge demand is the high quality of the flowers grown on good soil and against the sea breeze. “As we are running short of supply, even the flowers that fail to meet the standards (90cm length for the big variety, 80cm for the small variety) are all shipped for the time being.”
Korean Cultivars - Yes Nuri, Secret Pink, and Magic - in the Spotlight
Korean chrysanthemum breeds such as Yes Nuri and Baekma are considered to be potent floral ammunition when it comes to numerous issues like royalty, variety protection, and price competition with Southeast Asian countries. As compared to its Japanese counterpart Baekseon, the indigenous variety Baekma has been recognized by Japanese core auction markets, such as the Ooda Auction Market and the Flower Auction Japan (FAJ), for its clearer colors and more plentiful petals. In addition, the flower has a long longevity and can stay cut for two to four weeks. Along with the gorgeous Baekma, Yes Nuri, the pale-pinkish spray chrysanthemums, are also drawing a lot of attention from Japanese consumers.
The Taean Exporting Chrysanthemum Farming Cooperative Association is currently exporting the flowers to Japan through Rosepia, Bugyeong Horticultural Farming Cooperatives, and WooHyun Co., Ltd. A crate of big-variety mums is packed with 200 flowers and a small variety crate with 300~400 flowers. The big ones sell at KRW 450 per flower and the small ones at KRW 350 per flower. Chrysanthemums are picked in the morning or evening when the temperature is relatively low in order to keep them fresh as long as possible. The Taean Association is trying hard to increase the marketable quality by using microorganism compost and adding bark and sawdust to boost the fertility of the soil.