EghtesadOnline: Iran’s flower and ornamental plants production has had an uptrend in recent years, going up from 2.33 billion stems in the fiscal 2015-16 to 3.31 billion stems in 2016-17 to register a 41% increase year-on-year.
“The upward trend will continue in the current year (March 2017-18),” director general of the Greenhouses, Medicinal Plants and Edible Mushrooms Affairs Office with the Agriculture Ministry told Financial Tribune.
Gholamreza Taqavi added that 6,567 hectares of land are under the cultivation of ornamental plants and flowers in Iran, 2,391 hectares of which belong to greenhouse cultivation while the remaining 4,176 hectares pertain to outdoor cultivation.
Some 2.5 billion cut flowers were harvested in the country in the last Iranian year (ended March 20, 2017), according to Financial Tribune.
Taqavi said flower harvesting is on the rise, given the increase in land under cultivation throughout Iran.
It is predicted that 2.63 billion cut flowers will be harvested by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2018).
The official noted that due to the rise in domestic demand and the prevailing economic situation, it is estimated that 10% of production will exceed domestic demand, which will be exported.
Iran’s flower and ornamental plants production was estimated to be worth $24 million in the last Iranian year.
The provinces of Tehran, Markazi, Mazandaran, Khuzestan, Alborz and Isfahan are the top provinces in terms of cultivation of flowers and ornamental plants.
Growing Domestic Demand
According to Taqavi, Iran’s per capita flower consumption amounts to 18 stems per year, while the global average is 150.
“Flowers are gaining in popularity in Iran, as buying and offering flowers as a gift are becoming more commonplace in the Iranian culture,” he said.
Switzerland has the highest per capita flower consumption in the world and Russia has the lowest.
Iran’s domestic flower demand stands at 2.25 billion stems per annum, while it has no import of flowers or ornamental plants.
Latest statistics show the country exported 1,989 tons of flowers and ornamental plants worth $9 million during the seven months to Oct. 22.
Such exports stood at 5,224 tons worth $24.1 million in the last Iranian year (March 2016-17).
Russia as well as Central Asian and Persian Gulf countries are the main customers of Iranian flowers and ornamental plants.
Taqavi said exports have decreased in recent years due to the rise in domestic demand, but they are expected to rise in view of the expanding transportation infrastructures, improving international relations, increasing global demand and increasing land under cultivation.
He believes Iran’s flower industry can rival oil and gas industries and have a bigger share in the country’s non-oil exports, considering the significant value-added generation in the production of flowers and ornamental plants.
An export terminal for flowers and plants has recently opened in the city of Eslamshahr while another is under construction in the city of Pishva both in southern Tehran.
Job Creation, Ongoing Challenges
Taqavi said job creation in this industry has increased in recent years because of the expansion of land under cultivation.
The area under cultivation grew from 6,329 hectares in the fiscal 2015-16 to 6,566 hectares in 2016-17, leading to a rise in the number of people directly employed in this industry going up from 63,290 to 65,660.
Each greenhouse creates 10 direct and 30 indirect jobs per hectare, while outdoor cultivation creates five jobs directly and 15 indirectly per hectare.
Taqavi believes that a number of issues are harming Iran’s flower industry and cultivators, including lack of specialized knowledge in greenhouse farming, lack of infrastructures, high prices and heavy loan interest rates, among others.
The end prices of Iranian flowers are high due to several reasons, including lack of mass production, production in low volumes and high price of inputs.
According to the official, Iran’s Sixth Five-Year Development Plan (2017-22) proposes plans to switch to hydroponic cultivation and use hybrid seeds.
Know-how and technology transfer from renowned countries in the field of flowers and ornamental plants, like the Netherlands, in the form of training courses and incorporation of modern cultivation methods are on the agenda.
Plans are also underway to sign agreements with top flower producers in the world.
The area under greenhouse cultivation in Iran presently spans 12,157 hectares, which marks a 38% rise compared to the period before August 2013 when President Hassan Rouhani took office, according to the executive of Greenhouse Expansion Project undertaken by the Agriculture Ministry.
Valiollah Bani-Ameri added that the ministry plans to increase the country’s greenhouse area to more than 48,000 hectares by the end of the 20-Year Vision Plan (2005-25).
According to the official, Iran ranks second globally in the expansion of greenhouse area after Mexico.
The Agriculture Ministry plans to transfer all vegetable farms to greenhouses within 10 years.
The biggest greenhouse in southern Iran was launched in December 2016 in Roudan County of Hormozgan Province. The greenhouse, constructed in an 11-hectare plot of land by the private sector, has created 120 direct and over 250 indirect jobs.
The global production of flower and ornamental plants was worth $150 billion in 2014.
The Netherlands, Germany and France are the world’s top flower and ornamental plant producers while the Netherlands, Columbia and Kenya are the biggest exporters.
Aad Verbakel, founder of Dutch agricultural firm VB Group, signed a preliminary agreement last year to build a 20-hectare greenhouse in Iran.
“This large-scale modern greenhouse complex, which will meet the needs of local food and flower production, will be realized by VB Greenhouse Projects,” the Dutch firm reported on its website.