China / Society

African roses brighten China's Valentine's Day

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-02-13 21:06

SHANGHAI - "A rose is a rose", but does it convey a higher romantic ideal if it has come all the way from Africa?

Zhang is a white-collar worker from Hangzhou City in Zhejiang Province. She was a little disappointed when she received her flowers from the courier. "They looked OK but not as fresh as I expected," she said. "I guess it's understandable, since they have been on such a long journey."

Zhang ordered the roses from The bouquet cost her 99 yuan ($16 dollars).

"I enjoy decorating my house with flowers. Usually I buy them at the store near home. I just wanted something different on Valentine's Day, so I tried these Kenyan roses," she said.

"They are not very expensive compared to ordinary Chinese roses, the price of which has doubled recently from 5 to 10 yuan each," she added.

Wang Licheng, a Tmall promotions director, said Chinese consumers are increasingly interested in foreign flowers. Tmall has sold tulips from the Netherlands and roses from Ecuador. In conjunction with, a flower delivery network, this is the first year they have brought roses from Africa.

Zhan Guang, vice president of iishang, said the company ordered 400,000 roses from Kenya and all were sold within a few days.

The Kenyan roses are grown beside Lake Naivasha. Nourished by volcanic ash and the abundant equatorial sunshine, they have vibrant colors and a long flowering period. When they land in China, they are sent to be packed in Beijing, Shanghai or Kunming and from there go all over the country.

"It only takes a matter of hours for the flowers to be flown from Kenyan gardens to Chinese customers," said Zhan. "The price is generally three to five times of that of the Chinese alternatives."

Kenyan roses can be found at many other online flower sellers with prices ranging from dozens to several hundred yuan each.

Wang Yin is the owner of an online flower store in Hangzhou. The store has three special Valentine deals -- small Kenyan roses, big Ecuador roses and Dutch tulips.

"The Kenyan roses were the most popular and all 100 bouquets were sold soon after arriving," she said. "They are spray roses. Each stem is clustered with several blooms and buds, so the bouquets seem especially full and festive, making them perfect holiday presents."

Trade between China and Kenya has been growing for decades. In 2013, China became Kenya's largest source of foreign direct investment and second largest trading partner.

Eliud Njenga, executive director of Pigeon Blooms in Kenya, said the company has built partnerships with Chinese companies and exported roses to China in large quantities for a few years.

Tmall's Wang said, "Kenya is a major flower grower and China still has a large potential market for Kenyan flowers. We plan to introduce more of them to Chinese customers in the future."

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