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Floral Business Blooms in Dalat

Industry insiders are hoping the fast-blossoming horticultural industry will eventually turn Dalat into a prime nower city in Asia.

"Not many cities can grow flowers and Dalat has the potential to be the flower city of Asia," said Thomas Hooft, general director of Hasfarm, the leading grower in the Central Highlands and the only flower exporter in the country.

Starting with two hectares of greenhouses in 1994, Hasfarm has aggressively expanded its flower growing areas. After using all 29 hectares of land in the first phase, the company has now expanded over another nine hectares in Dalat.

The grower is cunently proceeding with a much bigger development, aiming to turn 250 hectares in Finom Don Duong area into a flower, vegetable and dairy farm, where it has built 15 hectares of green houses, eight hectares of net houses and raised 450 cows. Expanding production has allowed the grower not only to meet demand from the domestic market, but also to become one of the leading flower exporters in the country. Most of its products are for export, earning the company US $10 million in revenue annually.

Hasfarm began with its first export order to Thailand in the mid 1990s and is now extending its reach to Japan and Australia. It has weekly orders to Cambodia, Singapore and Indonesia and is aiming to penetrate east Asian markets.

Hooft said Dalat could become a new "Holland" in flower exports in the next 10 to 15 years if local fanners were helped to grow high-quality flowers on an industrial scale.

Hasfarm's success is encouraging Dalat fanners to expand their flower growing. Currently, some 6,000 families in the resort city are engaged in flower production with more than 1,000 hectares of green-houses. "By starting flower production activity, we have created a flower industry for Dalat,' said Hooft.

The Dutchman said local farmers were now earning enough to buy motorbikes, televisions and build new houses, but that there was little investment in more sophisticated green houses.

"They need to invest in green- houses because their current flower quality does not meet standards for export. If they can meet export standards, we will buy from them," he said.

Hooft said only 10% of the company's local market share came from local fanners and the banks should lend to fanners so that they could buy more sophisticated greenhouses and irrigation systems to grow products for export. Hooft said Dalat possessed good conditions for flower growing, as the city has a cool climate, no pollution and a nice landscape, which encouraged him to select the area as a production base after exploring several other countries in Asia.

Japan is currently the biggest market for Dalat flowers, and Lam Dong provincial authorities are hoping that a giant resort proposed by investors from the country would boost its image as a flower resort city in Asia. Phan Van Dung, the deputy director of Lam Dong Planning and Investment Department, said provincial authorities were negotiating with Japanese investors over a plan to build a US $1.2 billion resort town in Dalat.

The Japanese investors have proposed the construction of a "Romantic City" in Dan Kia-Suoi Vang area, featuring thousands of villas with flowers growing in the surrounding area. (VIR). Reference.

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