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Tom Vail, Amy's Orchids: 50 million stems a year exported to U.S.

Thai growers expanding cut orchid acreage

Over the last years, the U.S. demand for Thai cut flower orchid increased sharply. In 2005, the export to the States was over 50 million stems a year. This offered chances for Thai farmers and exporters. However, the cultivation process and especially post harvesting handling remains challenging for many Thai growers and exporters. Therefore, many Thai farms remain small family businesses. However, there are Thai farms that are going to expand and extend the countries they export to, for example Amy's Orchids. This company has full control over their production and delivery process and is based in the US with a farm in Thailand. This is explained by Tom Vail, production manager at Amy's Orchids.

Amy’s Orchids

Amy’s Orchids is a mid-sized family farm in Thailand. The farm consists of several small farms which has a total size of approximately 100 acres. In 1999 Amy, the owner of Amy’s Orchids, started to import Thai cut orchids from their own farm in Thailand to the United States. In 2005, the demand for Thai flowers increased drastically due to promotional activities, like marketing and educating US floral professionals about the Thai orchid. In 2008, Amy’s Orchids became the largest direct importer of Thai orchids to the US.

In Thailand, Amy's Orchids owns a farm and a tissue culture lab. On the farm, they grow different varieties of the Dendrobium cut flower orchids; White Dendrobium, Purple Dendronium, Misteen, Lai Sirin, Dark Blue, Natasha, Sakura, and Jade. The White Dendrobium is the most popular and is therefore their primary product. The Purple Dendrobium is the second most popular. Besides that, red, pink, purple and white varieties of Mokara, Tiger Tail, James Story and Oncidium are also being cultivated. Annually, the farm grows approximately 1 million stems.

Cultivation of cut flower orchids

“90-99 per cent of the Dendrobium and Mokara that are used around the world are grown in Thailand”, explains Vail. This is due to four factors, namely, climate, good domestic logistics, low labour costs and good international logistics. According to Vail, climate is the most significant factor.

Thailand has a tropical climate with extremely dry and wet seasons. This contrast is beneficial for the cut flower orchids and enables them to grow and bloom all year round. “Most orchids like large amounts of water, but also like to maintain dry roots.” During the wet season, much rain falls, but due to the location of the farm it dries up quickly. During the dry season, water is supplied from the Thai rivers. Another important factor for blooming is temperature; when the temperature is below 22 degrees Celsius, growth is retarded and blooms will not open.

"In Thailand, all commercially grown orchids are under shade cloth. This open mesh cloth blocks 50% to 80% of the strong tropical sunlight." Even though there is no need for any climate control, do not underestimate the difficulties in operating an effective and efficient commercial orchid farm, stresses Vail. “Regular irrigation, a regular fertilization program, and pest management are essential for producing high quality and quantity flowers”.

Post-harvest handling

"As quality and customer service is our primary goal, we need to supply our customers with the best products. The strength of Amy’s Orchids and the benefit to our customers lies in our post-harvest handling”. In order to guarantee high quality products, Amy's Orchids does not only have full control over their production process, but also over their delivery process. From their cooled packing house in Thailand, the flowers are transported in their fully owned cooled trucks to their own shipping agency, which handles their products at the airport. “In this way, we can get the flowers from the delivery trucks, through the agricultural inspection into the airline cold room in less than 15 minutes”.

Future of Amy’s Orchids

There are many plans in the pipeline for Amy’s Orchids. Currently, Amy’s Orchids is in a re-building phase and is renovating their Packing Building. They are also expanding their farm and plan to re-open their tissue culture lab which will start contracted production in 2016. They endeavour to produce the same amount of stems - 3 million - as they used to produce before the flood in 2011. Moreover, they are also planning to grow pot plant orchids. Besides that, they are developing an online store for US customers. "If it is a success it will also be implemented in Europe." Finally they are expanding their marketing activities which will be featured in Europe, Russia, Australia and Asia.

For more information:
Amy's Orchids
Email: [email protected]