Cut flower business in the Philippines can further grow and expand into exports markets, thanks to a locally developed packaging technology that can prolong the flower’s freshness and vase life by up to 600 percent. Yes, that is about six-fold increase from the average five- to seven-day vase life of flowers shipped using traditional boxes.
The local cut flower industry has come a long way from being a market dominated mainly by hobbyists and plant enthusiasts to a fully-grown sub-sector of the ornamental flower market. A stop over at mass local flower markets in Baguio and Dangwa in Metro Manila and upper-class shops in malls shows the bustling domestic market for fresh buds fashioned into corsage, bouquets, wreaths and arrangements for all occasions. And there are no indications of the market slowing down as local growers continue to expand their markets and grow their profits.
A challenge that limits the further growth of the local market is the lack of packaging that can further prolong the freshness and case life of the flower. Often, flowers transported from farm to the markets using oversized or undersized containers that can result in bruised stems, shattered petals and wilting. Rough handling also damages the flowers while they are being transported and this reduces profits. Often, the flowers are also transported with no special packaging at ambient room temperature.
Recognizing this problem, a team of Filipino researchers came up with a solution to help prolong the shelf life and reduce damage of cut flowers such as roses and chrysanthemums due to current shipment practices.
Using locally available breathable films, the team developed an oriented polypropylene (OPP) and Modified atmospheric Packaging (MAP) bag. When stored at 50C, the flowers inside these special bags can increase its shelf life by up to a month or 600 percent from the average vase life of five to seven days only when stored at room temperature.
Another innovation in this packaging technology is the addition of constructed generic transport packaging boxes that can reduce flower damage and cut margin losses between 12 and 24 percent.
The team pilot tested the packaging technology in Benguet flower farms. The province in the Cordillera Region is one of the top three cut flower producers in the country, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics. The other two are Davao and Cebu.
Traditionally, farmers in Benguet use recycled corrugated boxes to transport the cut flowers. The boxes are arranged horizontally, usually over packed with cut flowers, and then, loaded with other commodities in a cargo truck for an eight-hour trip to Dangwa in Dimasalang, Metro Manila.
These practices resulted in almost hold (46 percent damage) of the flower buds being detached or compressed, which translates to lower profits for the farmers, according to the research team’s assessment.
In addition to the packaging technology, the research team also added a branding and labeling component such as “Sibol” (loosely translated to grow) as a national brand for Filipino grown cut flowers. This brand labels will be crucial to relate the product’s quality to its origin in the Philippines as the growers expand in the markets abroad.
For Benguet farmers, they wanted to adopt Benguet Blooms as their regional brand name because it identifies their roots and according to them, it is easier for farmers to relate to the name, according to the research team.
A good brand name can also help introduce the product and build an association with its origin, culture and history.
Aside from cutting losses when shipping cut flowers from farms to their markets, the modified atmospheric packaging technology can also help preserve products during peak season.
According to the DOST research team, this can help stabilize products and reduce wastes due to oversupply and overall contribute to lower losses on the farmers’ side. The research team is optimistic that these potential findings can be applied to other ornamentals and fresh commodities from the Philippines market.
The modified atmospheric packaging technology (for cut flowers) is a remarkable Filipino innovation that can reduce losses by half when shipping cut flowers and also help stabilize market prices during oversupply. This technology shows promise on how local cut flower market and other fresh commodities can bloom both here and abroad.
By: Ms. Daisy E. Tañafranca Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI) Published by:Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII)