Asia's biggest flower market makes stars out of influencers

Boxes of roses, lilies, and carnations pile up as influencer Caicai speaks into her smartphone from a small studio at Asia's biggest flower market, with thousands of customers eagerly awaiting her view on the best deals.

E-commerce is big business in China and influencers and live streamers have made their fortunes showcasing products for luxury brands and cosmetics firms.

Now the nation's horticulture industry, worth an estimated 160 billion yuan ($25.1 billion), is getting in on the action. Where once people visited markets and florists themselves, they are increasingly shopping for blooms via their smartphones. Online retail now represents more than half the sector's turnover.

"Five bouquets, only 39.8 yuan (6.25 dollars) for those that order right away," the 23-year-old says - a sales pitch she hones for eight hours a day delivered at lightning speed. "When you sell something for a long time, the words come naturally," she says. Earnings can be unreliable, however.

"Flower sales vary in busy and slack seasons, so a live streamers' daily income is very variable. All I can say is that the more you work, the luckier you will be," she explains, as colleagues next to her put the bouquets in cardboard boxes ready to be shipped.

Demand for cut flowers has soared in China as standards of living have risen, with the southern province of Yunnan at the epicenter of that boom thanks to its all-year mild climate.

Every day at 3 p.m., a rose auction starts in a huge room where over 600 buyers share the day's supply behind their screens.

"Yunnan represents around 80 percent of flower production in China and 70-80 percent of the flowers on sale pass through our auction room," says Zhang Tao, responsible for the market's logistics - a crucial role when the goods are so perishable. "That represents on average more than four million flowers sold every day. For Chinese Valentine's day, we sold 9.3 million in a day."

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