Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Chinese Rose Production

It's a little over a week old now, but I found this story of the rapid expansion of the rose industry in China quite interesting.

Most of us have bought flowers before for someone we care about. But like most everything else we buy, we don't think about where it comes from. Roses are an industrial product like plastics, chemicals, and machines. They go through an industrial process to be made, they create intense environmental changes, and they burn up fossil fuels to get here.

Right now, world flower production is centered in South America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. The superb film Maria Full of Grace has its main character work in a flower production plant in Colombia. But perhaps the labor costs in Colombia, Ecuador, and Kenya are too high for American consumers, who want cheap flowers in large quantities and don't care about the consequences.

China is poised to become the next rose power. From China's perspective, I guess I can see why they are interested. Right now, the massive expansion of China's economy is centered on the coast and the amazing income inequality has caused instability within the regime. By centering rose production in Yunnan and other inland provinces, China gives those people a reason to continue buying into the regime. They are also targeting areas with large Muslim populations as a way to forestall the rise of fundamentalism. I actually agree with this last point--giving people a reason not to turn to fanatics is the first step in defeating them. Sadly, the US would prefer just bombing them. And we have all seen how effective that strategy has been.

Workers get a whole $25 a month for this, often less than the cost of buying a dozen roses, though no doubt the Chinese flooding the market will lower these prices for us.