China’s exports of cut flowers currently are more than double its imports, but it is important to keep an eye on the growth of China’s imports since they may surpass exports very quickly. After a declining trend between 2008 and 2012, China’s imports of fresh cut flowers rose 333%, from $16.5 million in 2012 to $54.9 million USD, in 2017. Exports, on the other hand, are declining due to rising domestic demand. The rise in demand as well as higher demand for quality and differentiated flowers is helping to push up imports.
Top 10 countries of origin for cut flowers in China
Important crops: Gypsophila 18, roses
Ecuador surpassed Thailand in 2017 to be the top supplier of imported flowers to China by value. Several years ago, Ecuador’s import growth in China was being driven by demand for the country’s premium quality roses, which are popular in high-end floral shops, and are also bought directly from Ecuadorian suppliers by e-commerce companies such as Rose only. More recently Ecuadorian growth is driven by a surge in demand for gypsophila. In 2017, gypsophila overtook roses as the top Ecuadorian flower imported into China by both value and volume. With help from national export support bureau, ProEcuador, suppliers are focused on developing the China market, especially in the wake of declining sales to Russia. ProEcuador has run some successful rose promotion campaigns, such as teaming up with China Southern Airlines for a Women’s Day promotion and arranging for Ecuadorian roses to be featured on a popular television variety show. Ecuador has high brand recognition for rose and gypsophila, as well as a perception of quality among purchasers and consumers.
Important crops: Orchids
Thailand is China’s largest supplier of imported flowers by weight, though no longer by value (see above). Thousands of truckloads of orchids – mostly Dendrobium – are shipped overland by truck from Kunming to China each week. But prices are persistently low and consumer demand for Dendrobium has not grown as fast as for some other types of flower. In response, the country’s trade promotion officials are trying to promote the diversity of Thai orchids available to drive demand for species other than Dendrobium. Thailand and China trade flowers with each other tariff-free under the China-ASEAN FTA.
Important crops: Tulips, lily of the valley, peony, hydrangea, red spider lily20, Astilbe, Clematis, Tanacetum, Eryngium21
The Netherlands offers unparalleled selection, but imports have not grown as quickly in recent years as many of the African and South American countries. Flowers from Holland have a reputation for quality but are also expensive by local standards.
Important crops: Rose (spray and single head), Alstroemeria/Florinca, Gypsophila
Kenyan flowers, especially roses, are favored by some Chinese importers and distributors who supply the more traditional Chinese channels such as wholesalers, hospitality industry and brick and mortar retailers. The preference is based on a higher quality than domestic flowers (but not as expensive as Ecuadorian roses) and direct flights from Nairobi to Guangzhou.
Important crops: Rose, hydrangea, alstroemeria
Colombia has the second-best five-year growth rate of imports coming into China, after Ethiopia. It also boasts a much wider selection of flowers than neighboring Ecuador, which mostly produces only roses and gypsophila. But fairly or not, Colombia lags behind Ecuador among people in the Chinese flower industry and consumers in terms of awareness of its flowers and reputation for quality.
Important crops: King protea22, B erzelia, Leucospermum, waxflower, Brunia, Leucadendron 23
South African woody-stemmed flowers are quite popular in China recently and the country has showed solid growth of flower exports to China.
Important crops: rose , ping-pong chrysanthemum, 24 chrysanthemum
In 2017, China imported roughly an equal amount of flowers from Vietnam as it exported to Vietnam. Flowers from Vietnam can be exported to China by refrigerated container, saving on costs. Furthermore, Vietnam and China trade flowers with each other tariff-free under the China-ASEAN FTA. However, Vietnam has strong domestic demand and a more developed mass market floral retail sector than China, which may depress exports from Vietnam to China as those flowers are in high demand domestically.
Imported crops: Hypericum berries, Alstroemeria, roses25,
Although imports remain low, at about $1.3 million worth of fresh cut flowers imported into China in 2017, imports from Ethiopia have been growing very rapidly in the past few years. Some importers say they perceive the quality of Ethiopian roses to be lower than those of Kenya or South American countries but are attracted to the lower price. Cut flowers from Ethiopia can be imported into China with no tariff due to a non-FTA Chinese government policy.
Important crops: Hydrangea, peonies, Cymbidium26
Flowers traded between China and New Zealand have zero tariff under the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.
Important crops: Geraldton waxflower27, protea, assorted Australian wildflowers
Growth in imports from Australia has been healthy in recent years and could be set to grow due to strong demand for exotic woody-stemmed flowers like protea and various Australian wildflowers. In 2019, the tariff on flowers traded between China and Australia will fall from 2% to zero under the terms of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
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