Ahby Tseng poses proudly in front of the collection of coffee mugs displayed in a showcase that’s quite a bit taller and wider than the employee of the Taiwan Orchid Growers Association (TOGA) himself.
He’s the secretary-general of this non-profit organisation, which aims to support the Taiwanese orchid industry. Orchid is an important product for Taiwan: out of the country’s annual, more than 185 million euro flower export turnover, 85% is orchid. Phalaenopsis accounts for three quarters of the total orchid export value.
This is clearly visible at the Taiwan International Orchid Show (TIOS), which was held from the 3rd until the 12th of March. Phalaenopsis dominated the assortment. About thirty growers came to the event to exhibit their produce in a separate hall, just like at any other trade fair.
Because TIOS isn’t just a show for consumers, even if it does attract 240,000 visitors who come to admire the magnificent arrangements and broad assortment of orchids each year. A bit like Keukenhof, but with orchids.
So, TIOS is a place to do business. “Out of the 400 phalaenopsis companies in Taiwan, around 250 grow for the local market only. The rest grows for export as well as the local market. But there are only 30 exporting companies. That means that they also trade orchids from colleagues that are too small to manage their own exports, or don’t want to do it. Those thirty companies often have a nursery abroad as well, mostly in the USA. They ship young plants by boat “, explains Ahby Tseng.
Tseng knows the industry. He spent 10 years working at the phalaenopsis nursery that his father had from 1988 to 2006. In 1998 he moved to China to sell cuttings and flowers for Char Ming Agriculture, one of those exporting Taiwanese phalaenopsis companies. In 2008, Ahby Tseng returned to Taiwan and started working at TOGA.
Developing distribution markets, assisting orchid growers with exports, and dealing with technical aspects of breeding and legislation issues. That’s what his current job consists of. It takes him to many countries and cities. He brings home coffee mugs as souvenirs. International chain Starbucks has become his preferred supplier.
Mugs with the name of the country printed on them. As far as the Taiwanese orchid growers are concerned, Ahby Tseng will be filling his showcase rapidly. There’s room for exports to increase, although the large number of visitors at TIOS demonstrates that the national market shouldn’t be ignored either.
This blog was written by editor Hans Neefjes of Het Vakblad voor de Bloemisterij / Floribusiness. He visited the Taiwan International Orchid Show (TIOS) last week.