Flower farmer Han Gang of Baofeng subdistrict in Kunming, Yunnan province, takes care of his produce. (Photo provided to China Daily)
When Lyu Yunxiong retired from the army in 2014, he worked as an auxiliary policeman. However, after just five months, the then 23-year-old decided to return home to grow flowers.
"I noticed local flower businesses developing rapidly. Most of the people in our village were growing flowers, and I discovered that they had all converted their dilapidated houses into beautiful big ones over the course of just a few years. That's why I thought growing flowers would be a profitable venture," says Lyu.
His choice, it seems, was a wise one, as, just six years on, he is quite satisfied with his current life."I grow 1 hectare of roses now, and earned more than 300,000 yuan ($43,830) in 2019. I don't want a nine-to-five job and growing flowers at home enables me to enjoy more freedom."
His career would not have been as satisfying without the development of the flower business in Baofeng subdistrict, Jinning district, Kunming, Yunnan province. The businesses in the subdistrict produced 200 million yuan worth of product in 2019.
According to Qi Yaobin, a local official,"The climate in Kunming is suitable for growing flowers. We can say 70 percent of the flowers in the Chinese market come from Yunnan, then 70 percent of Yunnan's flower come from Jinning district, and our subdistrict is the main flower-planting area in the district.
"The flower business has become the main pillar of the economy here, and plays a big role in leading local people to a better life," says Qi.
In the past, people in the area mainly grew vegetables, but they found they could plant flowers as well. The flowers soon displayed the area's greater advantages-quicker growing time, better transportation and more sales channels-so, in 2009, they turned to growing flowers extensively.
Average annual income in the area has increased from just 2,000 yuan before 2009 to around 18,000 yuan in 2019. Despite obvious difficulties this year, that figure is still estimated to rise to around 20,000 yuan for 2020.
"Among the 6,700 households in our subdistrict, 1,900 are growing flowers, and more than 4,000 are doing work related to the flower business. Their flowers have been sold to all around China, as well as overseas," says Qi.
People are also continuously exploring new, more profitable types of flowers to grow, as well as new sales channels. For example, 35-year-old flower farmer Han Gang introduced Hydrangea macrophylla for local people to plant in 2014."People didn't plant this type of flower because its sprout is expensive compared with other flowers, and its returns are not immediate. But, over the course of several years, it is much more profitable than ordinary crops, like roses."
He was the first to grow the hydrangeas, but after seeing the money he earned, others soon followed his lead.
This year, due to the influence of COVID-19, flower sales have suffered, and Han tried his hand at promoting sales through livestreaming.
"I invited some online sales enterprises to help us sell flowers during a two-day livestream in June, and sold 90,000 loose, and 50,000 potted, hydrangeas, making nearly 300,000 yuan. Although the price was much cheaper than before, it at least recouped some of the losses suffered by the farmers."
People in the area also do well in planting succulents, and they have formed a relatively mature online sales channel.
"Succulent plants are always welcomed in the market, and more than 300 groups have come to our subdistrict to buy them from us to sell through livestreaming. Now the planting area for them has reached more than 200 hectares," says Han, who estimates he will earn about 200,000 yuan from succulent plant sales this year.
"Local government plans to support more cooperatives and build a complete system which combines flower research, cultivation, sales, transportation and display to promote further development and help local people live a better life through the business," says Qi.