The recently concluded Taipei International Flora Expo was an event of great pomp and fanfare, but there was little actual gain flower exporters said. They added that the expo was not as effective as the Tainan International Orchid Expo, which they estimate brought in NT$700 million (US$24 million) worth of orders during the 10-day period it was held in March.
The total amount spent on the Flora Expo, which ended on April 25 after a run of 171 days, was estimated at NT$14 billion, of which NT$350 million came from the Council of Agriculture.
According to information from the Taiwan Floriculture Exports Association (TFEA), the nation’s flora exports last year came to US$1.5 billion, with the sale of moth orchids accounting for US$820 million, and the other half claimed by dancing-doll orchids, Anthurium, Eustoma and others.
TFEA secretary-general Chen Hou-yu (陳厚祐) said the association participated in six international flower expos in countries such as Japan, Belgium and the Netherlands last year and three so far this year.
Taiwan’s flora industry is -export-oriented and must therefore focus on actively expanding international markets, he said.
The industry has difficulty securing government funding, Chen said, citing the example of Taiwan’s moth orchid industry being surpassed by that of the Netherlands, adding that although Taiwan’s orchids account for at least half of the US market, the government needs to offer more assistance to ensure the Dutch do not make further inroads into the market share of Taiwanese flower exporters
According to Taiwan Orchids Growers Association chairperson Kao Chih-ching (高紀清), customers who place orders with him do so because they came for the Orchid Expo and went to the Flora Expo on the side.
The Flora Expo came across as more of a show for consumers and not businesses, he said, noting that commercial expositions invite commercial investors to tour before the event opens, allowing them to place orders after assessing the flowers away from the public.
For example, the Orchid Expo invites potential international buyers to view the products and places the newest products on display, he said.
This was in contrast with the government’s assurance that the Flora Expo would provide a boost to the flower industry, Kao said, adding that the it had only a limited influence on the industry as a whole.
The Flora Expo didn’t really have any connection to flowers as a whole other than the fact that it used them to decorate the site, Kao said, adding that the money spent on hardware and advertisement at the expo was more than that spent on buying flowers.
Promoting the expo with flowers blurred its focus, as visitors tended to buy souvenirs rather than flowers, he said.
Noting the variability of the international flora industry, Kao said it would be more useful if the government helped by investing greater resources and expanding international markets.
Kao’s views were shared by another flora businessman, who said that even without the Flora Expo, flora industry exports were set to grow because moth orchid exports rose by 15 percent, even during the financial crisis.
The government should not attribute industry growth to the Flora Expo, said the businessman, who wished to remain anonymous.
Deputy Director of the Agriculture and Food Agency Hsu Han-ching (許漢卿) said that the effects of the Flora Expo would not be immediately apparent as it only recently concluded.