Thatta Kedona

Culture is a Basic Need

Say it with flowers

Flowers bring people together. Blossoms can fuel a flaming passion, calm a raging jealousy, comfort a living being or earn a living. Presenting flowers or sticking a flower in someone's hair or on lapel is a romantic and cherished social folkway. Aside from romantic and literary delights, there is commerce in flowers too. Now florists are seen in posh neighborhoods in most big cities. In Lahore, from single rose to bouquets are on sale on every corner. Rates of flowers vary from customer to customer and from time to time. Where the flowers come from?

Patoki town is famous for flower growing and has one of the ‘biggest clusters of flower, fruit and decorative plant nurseries in the country. Growing flowers and tree plants and selling is a major business concern in the sleepy town situated in the suburbs of Lahore. Town famous for flowers all over the country is dusty with all problems of small towns: power outages, water shortages, lack of sanitation and management. Single bazaar in Patoki where one can buy most utility items is congested due to excessive encroachments of all sorts. Residential area in town is a mixed cluster of houses widely varying in size, style and quality. But, you cannot see many flowers grown in Patoki nurseries in the houses. Instead, people keep their cows, buffaloes and goats in the streets.

"It is muddy in rainy season and 'dust bin' when not raining. The only good thing that has happened to our town in last couple of decades is construction of a bypass, which has relieved the inhabitants of heavy traffic that used to pass through the residential area day and night," says a resident. Leave a typical Punjabi rural market town by road and it is like sailing through the ocean of green. All those who drive on soot choked and congested National Highway between Lahore and Sahiwal are familiar with over one kilometer lush green and fragrant stretch of nurseries on either side of the road on the edge of the town. Aside from the fragrance of the wares, the traders offer variety of flower, creepers, decorative bushes, ornamental and fruit tree plants, flowerpots and seeds. 'How to grow' flower books even if you have no space in your home are also available. I saw a few breeding greenhouses on the roadside and hundreds of rows of crossbred blossoms on spring morning. Budding flowers, sprouting of new leaves and fluttering butterflies are things of joy.

It all started when a migrated family settled here after partition in 1947. Two brothers set up a small nursery along the roadside. The concern started growing with the passage of time. Later, the family grew large and divided the business assets, which resulted in more nurseries as a family business. Afterwards, more and more people started growing and selling flowers and now Patoki town has earned its claim to national fame for growing flowers and decorative plants.

Despite having potential for becoming a recognized industry, flower trade in Patoki is still a family business. "Rose plants grown in Patoki are sent to places as far as Queta," told Mubarik Ali, a proprietor of a well-laid nursery, "but what keep us going are commuters on the National Highway who stop by and purchase flower or fruit plants for their home gardens. Or when we get a large order from some five star hotels or a multinationals based in Lahore to provide them grown flowers plants (in pots) for any special event. We deliver them the flowers, indoor plants, shrubs and even creepers in pots and the landscape experts and interior decorators arrange them for the display on the site." Besides growers and traders, large number of people is associated with this trade: pot makers, gardeners, and laborers. Artistic flowerpots are also displayed for sale on the roadside. This is another complimentary industry that has come up in town. Making flowerpots (also household utensils) is a traditional and useful craft practiced all over rural Pakistan. They are made of simple clay and backed with dung cakes in a local bhathi (oven).

Another flower grower Mian Khan told about beautiful tradition that has matured with the cooperation of his nursery in a nearby village Thatta Ghulamka where German volunteers are working on different poverty alleviation projects. In the village every newly married couple is presented a fruit tree whereas parents of every newborn get flower tree by the community based NGO Anjuman-e-Falah-e-Aama. Result: the blooming bougainvillea and fruit trees have been planted in courtyards of each home of the village.

Flowers have become an international trade item. An international report reads, "American alone now spend 15 billions dollars on flowers and plants per year. Columbia produces robust flowers. In 1998, only oil surpassed flowers in Columbian export revenues. Germans nurture special passions for roses and the country has become world's top flower importer. Kenya has become a major exporter from Africa." Nature being on the side of agricultural Pakistan, flowers can be one of the best sources of earning for Pakistan. We have potential markets in Middle East and some European countries to start with.

"The best marketing strategy for agriculturists cum businessmen associated with flower trade in Patoki is that each large nursery should specialize in particular kinds of flowers and should have brand names. The farmers should switch over from traditional crops like wheat and sugarcane to flowers. The government should encourage flower growers and make special arrangements for packing and shipment of delicate product by air from Lahore," says marketing expert Dr. Irfan Malik. But Mubarik Ali says that this needs funds and developed infrastructure. There is a requirement of research center where agricultural scientist can work on growing new and more productive varieties in all weather conditions. 

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:00 AM,


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