Russian flower merchant Rinad Ageev was more than pleased with his delivery of 200,000 fresh-cut roses that arrived by road in Moscow in October. It was the first time that fresh roses had been exported from the Linxia Hui autonomous prefecture in Gansu, Northwest China, to Russia by road.

Not traditionally thought of as a rich growing region for roses, Northwest China is cultivating a name for itself as a new player on the block. Roses grown in Linxia are even larger than those from Ecuador, a famous rose-producing area, and some varieties are rarely seen in the surrounding areas, according to Ageev.

In August, over 10,000 fresh-cut roses from Linxia were exported to Kazakhstan. In the same month, more than 20,000 roses were exported to Russia via airfreight.

"From picking to packaging and air transportation, it took about eight days, and the transportation cost was 1.5 times the price of the flowers," said Ageev, who then turned to an unconventional way forward in the sector — by using cold-chain trucks.