Floribusiness Blogs Wanted: flowers in Beijing

    Wanted: flowers in Beijing

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    Is there a flower market around here? The Chinese Flower News editors all shake their heads. And it seems like there aren’t any plant-related places to visit, either. I thought Beijing was filled with markets where they trade literally everything they can get their hands on?

    China’s capital city is so big that one ring road isn’t enough. Beijing currently has seven ring roads. We’re driving along the fourth one, from an airport in the northeast all the way to the southern part of the metropolis.

    Our appointment with Chinese Flower News is early in the morning. I’m picked up by one of their journalists, who came on foot; the office couldn’t be too far from the hotel. And indeed, it’s in a building not too far behind the hotel, but to get there, we need to go through a ‘hutong’, a traditional neighbourhood characterised by its many narrow alleyways. Officials in uniforms and fur hats (temperatures have dropped to below zero by now) are acting as guards on every street corner.

    I feel they’re keeping a close watch on me, all the way to the courtyard outside the office of the Chinese journal. A police car is parked right outside. My Chinese guide jokes that the government is watching me too and knows exactly which places I visit. Oh well. The journal also has a connection with the government.

    Chinese Flower News is made by a large pool of reporters. Some of them write about flowers, others about trees. I had already met one of the editors at Plantarium in Boskoop, and I’m now meeting his colleagues in Beijing. They asked me to give a presentation about our trade journals, how they relate to each other and the developments in our sector in the West.

    No garden centre either

    My request for a tour of some local plant and flower trading centres can unfortunately not be fulfilled. As a last resort, I suggest that perhaps we can visit a garden centre? No. My Chinese hosts shake their heads again. No retail. But then, all of a sudden, they tell me we’re taking a taxi in half an hour. I’m not sure I understand. They’d said there wasn’t anywhere to go? “Yes, yes, plants and flowers in retail”, they say. “Is that okay?”

    We drive along the third ring road at high speed, through streets lined with high rise buildings on both sides, we’re passing many cargo bicycles and three-wheeled mopeds, driven by people who are wrapped up warm against the frosty weather. Until we reach a large power plant, where we stop in front of a store. When we step inside, an English sign directs us to the entrance of a supermarket.

    Ah, yes, I can see plants in the distance, great! And here are some flowers too, but uhmm, they’re made of plastic. No lovely, fresh cut flowers unfortunately. The Chinese reporters explain that those are traded a few thousand kilometres further south.

    Ah, yes, I can see plants in the distance, great! And here are some flowers too, but uhmm, they’re made of plastic. No lovely, fresh cut flowers unfortunately. The Chinese reporters explain that those are traded a few thousand kilometres further south.

    It sounds a bit odd, but anyway, I’m glad we found at least one supermarket in Beijing that sells plants. A little later, the Chinese reporters steer the conversation back to the topic of flowers. They do have them after all. They’re talking about the flowers of potted plants… And that’s something newsworthy apparently, because the next day, I came across the following Chinese news item….

    Arno Engels
    Arno Engels is sinds 2000 vakredacteur bij De Boomkwekerij. Hij is opgegroeid in de sector en heeft op verschillende boomkwekerijen in binnen- en buitenland gewerkt.

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