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County's wealth entwined with growth of orchids

Wengyuan in Guangdong province has seen annual sales hit 30b yuan in just over two decades | Updated: 2024-05-29 21:58
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When Tsao Te-shing from Taichung in Taiwan visited a friend in Guangdong province in 1996, he had little inkling he would become part of a multibillion yuan orchid industry that today supplies the majority of the Chinese market.

His friend in Shunde was selling orchids grown in Taiwan. Back then, orchid growing was a rare agricultural venture on the Chinese mainland, while Taiwan had a sizable orchid industry, he said.

In 1998, Tsao, now 47, quit his job as a salesman in Taiwan and joined his friend in the orchid business in Shunde, where he also met his future wife who is from Hunan province.

However, it was a visit with a group of businesspeople from Taiwan to hilly Wengyuan county in Guangdong's north that changed Cao's fortunes.

Tsao said one of his workers had told him that orchids grow well in Wengyuan. The group brought dozens of the flowering plants back with them to Shunde. "In Wengyuan, the temperature difference between day and night is large. The air is clear, the water is good, and there are no polluting enterprises. These are favorable conditions for orchids' growth," he said.

In 2002, Tsao signed an agreement to start orchid farming in Wengyuan's Xianhe township.

Today, Tsao's Wengyuan Defang Orchid Garden Co operates 300 mu (20 hectares) of orchid farms. The main market for his flowers has shifted from Hong Kong and South Korea, where demand has dwindled, to the Chinese mainland.

Over the past 25 years, orchid farming in the county has gone from virtually zero to an annual turnover of 3 billion yuan (see box). Orchid farms in the county cover more than 2,360 hectares, and 21,000 people have found well-paying jobs related to the industry.

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