For the first time in the 100-plus years of its existence, Calcutta’s wholesale flower market at Mullickghat is stepping into exports, courtesy the West Bengal State Food Processing and Horticultural Development Corporation.
The first consignment of tube-roses, sunflowers, gladioli, snowballs and chrysanthemums, grown in Rajarhat, Ranaghat and Kolaghat, will be flown to the United Arab Emirates. Floral Trading of Sharjah placed the order with Mullickghat last Saturday, after examining the samples sent to it in the middle of December.
More than 40,000 cultivators are involved in floriculture in West Bengal, producing annually over 4,500 tonnes of flowers, Rs 50 crore in monetary value. West Bengal ranks third in India, after Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, in flower production.
The horticultural development corporation has already received feelers from Singapore and will fly out samples soon. Besides, traders from Amsterdam are scheduled to visit Mullickghat to ink a deal with the corporation.
The corporation initiative is attributed to plans drawn up by CPM legislator Sudhanshu Sil, also a senior functionary of the CMDA. “After the plans were placed before us, we found it easier to focus on the task,” admitted deputy manager of the corporation Subrata Bose.
After taking over the Mullickghat flower market from the Calcutta Port Trust, the corporation formed a Mullickghat Phoolbazar Parichalan Samity, under chairmanship of Sil. So, the CMDA stepped into the picture with a scheme to turn Mullickghat into a modern flower trading centre, with single-roof facilities of cold storage, flower processing and grading, a laboratory for extraction of essential oils and a guest-house for the visiting importers.
However, not all of the picture was rosy. The rose grown in the Bagnan-Kolaghat belt has failed the international test as its stem is too short. Foreign customers prefer roses with about 60-cm-long stems; the Bengal variety has hardly one-fourth the length demanded, pointed out Sil.
The corporation had taken up a scheme to standardise rose cultivation by introducing the ‘polyhouse’ method, by which the temperature could be kept under control, said deputy manager Bose. The corporation has started identifying rose-growers for the scheme, he added.
Sil hoped a favourable response from the global market would add a fillip to local floriculturists.