Guwahati, Feb 14 : In Cupid-struck Northeast, roses seem to be the flowers of choice for lovers, if the demand for the Dutch variety is anything to go by.
“The demand for Dutch roses is at an all-time high. Last year, it was a little over a lakh in the first two weeks of February. This year, it’s pushing 2 lakhs and we are expecting people to buy another lakh on Valentine’s Day alone,” said Rajesh Prasad, managing director of Zopar Exports Private Ltd, the leading flower supplier in the region.
Zopar produces 5,000 to 10,000 flowers daily in the region, which are sold locally. Guwahati tops the demand list, followed by Shillong, Dimapur, Kohima and Aizawl.
“We have 12 retail outlets and five wholesale points from where the flowers are distributed across the region. In Guwahati alone, we have sold over 60,000 roses this month,” Prasad said.
The average demand for roses in the Northeast is about two lakh per month. But between the third week of December and the second week of February, as many as five lakh roses vanish off the shelves in a month’s time.
“The season kicks off with Christmas and New Year’s Day, while post-January 15 it’s weddings and Rose Day on February 7. So not just roses, but anthuriums, chrysanthemums and carnations, among others, are in big demand,” he said.
Apart from roses, the monthly demand for varieties such as gerbera and orchids are the highest in the region at 75,000 and 50,000 respectively. “About 20,000 of each variety are procured from outside the region,” Prasad said.
The weather plays a crucial role in the rose output. “Ideally, the temperature should range between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius. However, the average winter temperatures in the region dip below 10 degrees Celsius, which delays the budding process. So, we have to cut a flower from its stem by the third week of November, so the next flower blooms in around 60 days,” Prasad said.
Zopar procures roses from Bangalore and Pune to meet the ever-growing domestic demand. “About 50,000 Dutch roses come from Bangalore and Pune in the run-up to the celebrations. The rest are met from local production. The bulk of the flowers are grown in Mizoram and Meghalaya, while in Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, we support government projects,” the entrepreneur said.
The flower company, which began operations in the region a decade back, supports nearly 2,000 farmers in the Northeast. “We facilitate setting up of greenhouses, provide technical knowhow and also buy back from the farmers,” he said.
Higher purchasing power and better lifestyles are also pushing up the sales of not just roses but other gift items like teddy bears and greeting cards.
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, the gift shops here were chock-a-block. Red heart-shaped pillows, teddy bears, mugs engraved with messages, greeting cards and chocolates of varied flavours were selling thick and fast.
“A teddy bear please,” said a college girl browsing through the shelves at a Panbazar outlet here. She was not alone. There were others queuing up to the counter to make last-minute efforts to find a “perfect” gift.