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201811月荷蘭蘭花產業之新消息

 

 

蘭花產業

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Orchids Cultivation

 

 

美國蝴蝶蘭市場的特點與問題 成本優先

 

中興大學 生物系統工程研究室  陳加忠

 

 

2013年對於全世界蝴蝶蘭產業是個沉悶,渾沌不明的一年。世界經濟體中歐洲仍然有其問題,蘭花消費量連續三年未見增加。但是種苗公司仍然不斷推出新苗,因而造成種苗市場過剩。中國正處於嚴重的生產過量,民間消費力量無法消化這些生產量。美國因而成為競爭激烈之消費市場。

美國市場自2002年至今,成長速度十分緩慢。近年來,有關此市場之相關報導有兩篇。其一是The Wall Street Journal 11月刊登,由記者Leanne Huang 在台灣的採訪報導。另一篇是Anthura 公司 Anthurinfo 2013(3) Cosmic Plants 公司之訪問。The Wall Street Journal之報導原文直接附錄於後。台灣蝴蝶蘭主流產業在訪談內容表示的意見簡述如下。

1.      台灣企業家以電子業的經營方式投入蘭花產業。

2.      因為蝴蝶蘭生產數量多,銷售額上升,因此利潤率降低。

3.      台灣業者太瞭解如何種植蘭花,因此栽培技術並無門檻。

4.      台灣蘭花生產可滿足客戶特殊的需求,專業分工的效率可與鴻海公司之生產流水線所比擬。

5.      台灣官方人員對蝴蝶蘭產業之建議是降低成本

6.      台灣是全世界蝴蝶蘭銷售量最大的國家,但是只有得到一部分的利潤。由於荷蘭的銷售是終端的開花株,得到最多收入。

Cosmic Plants 公司對美國市場之評論是大通路商只注重價格而不注重品質,蝴蝶蘭銷售成為永無休止的價格戰。“(The chain stores and home-hardware stores do not really attach importance to quality, but much more to price. (The price)is a downward spiral which seems never ending”.

在上述的資料中,台灣蝴蝶蘭界自稱代工生產如同電子業之代工方式。但是在台灣,一批分生組培苗送到三~五家園子代工,在五-六個月回收。相同的分生苗在不同的代工廠,取回後其大小,葉輻,葉片數,根系等生長特徵是否一樣?由此即可知蘭花代工鏈與電子界代工鏈之差別性。

美國蝴蝶蘭市場已是國際種苗生產國的主力戰場,但是美國蝴蝶蘭市場為何進展如此緩慢?2002年至2011年,其銷售量的增幅就是有限。直到荷蘭公司進入美國,近三年來成長速率才開始增加。在2012年,蝴蝶蘭銷售量估計為4000萬株。官方(USDA)之統計則接近2400萬株。對於一個人口超過三億的國家,換算其比例為12.5%,也就是說,八個人只有一個人每年購買一株蝴蝶蘭。

為何美國蝴蝶蘭銷售量擴展不大?台灣蝴蝶蘭種苗在美國遭遇哪些問題?就從其市場的特殊性加以討論。

在美國4000萬株的銷售量中,有60%為固定消費行為。代表有2400萬開花株是在固定節日,固定性的消費群加以消費。其餘1600萬株則是在全年之中,在不同地區,不同日期,由不一樣的消費者所購買。前者60%消費行為代表每年有一定數量的消費者。在一定的季節,一定會購買蝴蝶蘭。後者40%的消費者其消費行為是隨機性,非固定性。

由於美國花卉市場有此特定的固定消費群,購花行為猶如聖誕節前必要的消費潮。因此對於大型通路商而言,行銷重點是爭取這批顧客。因為消費行為已是固定:有一批人,在一定的節日,一定會購買蝴蝶蘭。因此品質成為次要條件,價格才是決勝因子。這即是Cosmic Plants 公司的觀察: 價格因子重於品質。只要能夠啟動價格大戰,將蝴蝶蘭視為期貨買賣,在美國有限時性的花卉消費市場及時搶到利潤。這種不計品質的價格大戰其目標是那2400萬株的消費量,而不是要求擴大更大的市場。一個花卉市場以價格為主,品質成為次要條件時,對生產端最大的影響則是也變為以成本考量為主之生產方式,而不是針對品質進行改進。由於市場目標是爭奪現有2400萬株,而不是追求更大的市場。在成本與品質兩者之間,自然是犧牲品質以迎合低成本生產。

台灣的蝴蝶蘭以各種尺寸型式出口至美國,包括2吋,2.5吋,2.8吋,3.0吋與3.5吋等。這些種苗到達美國之後,如果要能表現出良好開花性狀,除了種苗品質良好,儲運過程安全合理之外,在美國溫室至少需要如下之條件:

1.      有活力恢復之階段。

2.      溫室環控性能合乎需求,催梗及開花階段有足夠之低溫與適當的光量。

3.      給水,給肥作業合理化。

上述各階段需求的環控條件並不相同。在活力恢復階段是高溫適光,在催梗階段是低溫與偏高光。花梗長度到達3-5公分之後,再區分成為:1. 花梗伸長階段,2. 花蕾與花苞形成階段。後兩個階段之溫度與光量則依市場行銷日期可加以調整。

但是在降低成本為唯一要求之下,美國許多蝴蝶蘭溫室在接到台灣種苗之後,其處理方式即是在最短時間以最低成本使得種苗成為開花株,然後儘速送達市場。因此衍生出許多不合理之栽培方式。

1.      無活力恢復階段即直接送入市場

此方式對於海運大苗影響最大。苗株經由二十餘天的低溫無光,即刻直接送至低溫環境催梗,當然品質不佳。

2.      高密度之植床放置

為了降低成本採取高密度放置,植株葉片相互重整,造成光量不足。

3.      溫室內降溫功能不佳

主要的原因是溫室結構氣密不良,環控設備之性能不足。例如風扇之數目不足,水牆厚度太薄,冷凍機械之噸數不夠等。

4.      給水給肥作業未與氣體環境配合。

氣體環境之溫度、相對濕度與光量等影響了介質之蒸發與葉片蒸散作業。植株之肥料吸收與氣體環境,植株健康等條件息息相關。以台灣經驗在美國不見得適用。

在降低成本,快速上市的之大前提之下,品質已不是考慮重點,也因此形成一種惡性循環。開花品質無法提升,售價無法維持,愈來愈多開花株移入美國此市場,因此出售價格更低。為了生存,則更要求降低生產成本。美國蝴蝶蘭市場即形成此惡性循環之大戰,Cosmic Plants 公司對此之應對方式如下:

“We do not want to engage in that fight because it is a downward spiral which seems never ending. We leave it go to the big players to fight this out”

台灣蘭花產業以供應苗株為主。有一些公司在美國有自家的開花基地。自家的產品有自有的溫室加以照顧,對於自己之蘭苗能夠自行處理。只要不陷入低成本大戰,對於品質應該能有把握。但是種苗是如果銷售至他人蘭花公司,對方對於蝴蝶蘭開花株的生產品質並不重視。在降低成本之需要條件如下,就衍生許多爭議。因此台灣蘭株到達美國如何持續照顧,這也是許多蘭園思考之方向。如何在美國有一落腳之地,如何自主照顧蘭株,直到開花株。但是衍生另一個銷售問題。

Cosmic Plants 公司因為有自己的蘭花溫室,對於美國這種成本為先,品質以後的經營方式,他們選擇不同的道路“We try to offer the specialist an orchid that you can’t find in the supermarket across the street”。那麼,台灣蝴蝶蘭產業在美國的方向又是哪裡?

 

附錄:Leanne Huang for The Wall Street Journal

 

WUSHU VILLAGE, Taiwan--A custard-yellow orchid dubbed P. Golden Emperor 'Sweet' changed hands between Taiwan breeders in 1978 for $100,000. Now, orchids roll out of greenhouses in Taiwan and onto the shelves of big-box retailers like Lowe's for as little as $5.48.

As with flat-panel televisions and laptop computers, the once-rare orchid has become a mass-market commodity. Orchids now are the best-selling potted flower in the U.S., with annual sales exceeding the poinsettia, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Behind the shift are the entrepreneurs of Taiwan, who have brought to orchid-breeding the energy and methods applied to making consumer electronics.

One result is familiar to many electronics makers: While global orchid sales are rising, profit margins are thinning.

'An orchid is no longer worth what it used to be,' said Wu Po-Hung, one of Tainan's largest orchid growers. 'We learned how to grow them too well.'

Greenhouses rise from the humid plains of southern Tainan County in clusters that bring together dozens of small growers. Each specializes in a specific stage of the production cycle--from germination to potting plants.

Together they form an intricate orchid-production chain that can produce orchids to meet client specifications. Its efficiency resembles the assembly lines of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese contractor that makes iPhones and other Apple Inc. products.

Overall, since the U.S. first permitted imports of Taiwanese potted orchids in 2004, the wholesale value of a large potted orchid in the U.S. has dropped around 30%, with inflation factored in, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Smaller orchid plants now wholesale for as little as 100 New Taiwan dollars ($3.33), said Mr. Wu.

It is a reversal for Mr. Wu, whose family originally grew orchids on their rooftop as a hobby. His father turned it into a business after discovering he could make more money selling collectors the orchids on weekends than in his day job as an airplane mechanic.

A market for rare orchids still exists. But that has been on decline since the mid-20th century when horticulturalists figured out how to clone orchids from tissue cells.

 

The contemporary orchid-breeding business in Taiwan and its main rival, the Netherlands, centers on the Phalaenopsis, or the moth orchid. Native to Taiwan, it is popular with overseas customers for its full petals in pink, purple, white and yellow.

In the 1980s, a government-owned sugar company started growing orchids and found it more profitable than its core business. A decade ago, the Taiwan government plowed under huge swaths of unprofitable sugar cane to build greenhouses for orchids.

Following the tech industry model, the small growers grouped together into production chains.

Some growers focus on new breeds, coaxing cloned orchid cells into tiny green curls floating in glass flasks. Others then raise the slow-growing seedlings, packing them with dry moss into flexible plastic pots.

The seedlings go through three growth stages of 4 to 6 months each, usually under the care of different growers, and are repacked each time into successively larger pots. Then they are shipped overseas. At a greenhouse in the U.S., a shock of cold jolts the plants into flowering. Then they go to the most profitable stage: end-user sales.

The process has allowed Taiwan to become the world's largest producer of orchids by shipment number (the Netherlands is actually the largest producer by revenue) while capturing only a fraction of the profits. It is a ceiling Taiwanese companies have hit repeatedly: from laptop computers to power wheelchairs and golf club heads.

After building its economy on small-scale, low-margin manufacturers and efficient supply chains that revolutionized global pricing for a host of manufactured products, Taiwan has seen most of the profits flow elsewhere. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and other politicians have called repeatedly for 'structural reform' to solve the predicament, but have yet to produce solutions.

'Taiwan's orchid growers can't do much except keep trying to cut costs lower to stay ahead,' said Ting-Fang Hsieh, director of Taiwan's government-run Floriculture Research Center.

Taiwanese growers bemoan that they ship more orchids than the Netherlands, but the Dutch manage to make more money off orchids. A major Dutch competitor, Floricultural b.v., has built its own greenhouses in the U.S., which means it can control the more lucrative sales to retailers.

Though Taiwan has some industrial-scale production, most of the business is dominated by small family-run shops that focus on a single step. That, to some, is sapping profitability.

While generally it takes one to two years to grow an orchid, 'most Taiwanese orchid growers keep the plants for only a six-month segment,' said Mr. Wu, the Wushu Village grower. The strategy, he says, limits investment risk but also means Taiwanese growers don't control sales overseas.

Some growers are experimenting. Nadison Hsu, the 43-year-old chairman of Taiwan's largest orchid-growing collective and an ex-government official who favors pink and green Hawaiian shirts, said the industry needs to consolidate and innovate to succeed.

His company, Taiwan Orchid Professionals, began selling a brand of orchid-infused beauty products in Asia. It is also selling gold-coated orchids as a gimmick to build the brand. The company became the first horticultural company to list on Taiwan's over-the-counter Gre Tai Securities Market this year, a precursor step to listing on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

Showing off a large orchid plant with seven spotless white blooms cascading down a central stem, Mr. Hsu pointed to the four pairs of leathery green leaves, which show that the plant had taken four years to reach that size.

'How much do you think we can sell this for?' he says. 'Just 250 New Taiwan dollars'--$8.30.