International Orchid Show Tainan
By Tim Briercliffe

With around 200,000 visitors from the region and many from other countries the  International Orchid Show in Tainan, Chinese Taipei (March 1-11, 2019), has become an important fixture in the calendar of those active in the world of orchids. TIOS has been running every year since 2005 and has proven to be an important showcase for the industry in Chinese Taipei. 

Tainan is the home of TOGA, the association for orchid growers in the region, and is home to significant orchid production. With thirty plus exhibitors (those involved in foreign trade) it is clear that growers in the region take great pride in this annual festival for this beautiful range of plants. For growers in the region the export market is essential but in recent years this has presented challenges. There is still growth in the value of orchid exports, which are still dominated by Phalaenopsis, but the growth has slowed considerably to single percentage increases compared to six to eight years ago when export values were growing strongly. In fact between 2017 and 2018, while export value still rose a little this hides the fact that export volumes went down.

The USA and Japan have consistently been the main markets for orchid sales from the region and this continues; but the Netherlands has dropped down the ranking with Vietnam taking over. There are probably two reasons for this. Orchid production in Europe, especially the Netherlands has reached saturation point. According to Ed Moor, from Sion Orchids, who spoke at the TIOS Business Forum, there are 52 Phalaenopsis growers in the Netherlands, covering 285 hectares. Historically Dutch growers have bought in young plants from Chinese Taipei but, according to Ed that is getting less as European expertise and competitiveness increases. Secondly, Vietnam is an increasingly interesting place for orchid production.  Dr. Nguyen Van Tien from CEFORD in Vietnam described the huge growth in the Vietnamese industry. They are also expanding exports. Now 60% of Vietnamese orchid production is exported, mainly to Japan, Middle East, South East Asia and South Korea.

The Chinese Taipei orchid industry is clearly outstanding but it must face up to the challenges of an increasingly competitive marketplace for this product that is now grown much more widely. Growers will need to collaborate more to service new markets, they will need to do more to protect their new varieties and the whole global orchid industry is hungry for innovation. But, Chinese Taipei takes their industry seriously. In 2020 Taichung will host the World Orchid Conference, keeping this critical product right at the front of mind. Equally promoting the country’s orchid industry was the Blossom Pavilion in the AIPH-approved Taichung World Flora Expo which hosted amazing orchid displays. This is a vital industry for the region and with the right focus by growers then they have every right to stay at the forefront.

In 2016 Taiwan boasted 400 orchid growers cultivating 700ha under glass. It is estimated that Chinese Taipei grows 200ha of Phalaenopsis, 150 ha of Oncidium, 100 ha of Cymbidium 130 ha of Cattleya and Dendrobium and 5.6 ha of Paphiopedilum. Opened in 2005, the Taiwan Orchid Plantation (the venue of the annual TIOS show) the Taiwan Orchid Plantation (TOP) is the country’s epicentre of orchid production covering 160ha cultivated by 80 growers.

The majority of orchid plants are destined for domestic sales whilst around 30 companies are entirely focused on export sales. According to 2016 data provided by TOGA, the association for orchid growers in the region, the total export value of flower and plant exports was US$181 million of which orchid exports accounted for $172 million, equivalent to 92% of total flower and plant exports. In 2017, the total value of Phalaenopsis exports was US$128 million. Phalaenopsis makes up 68.5% of the country’s total value of orchid exports.

 

TIOS is the ultimate showcase for the Taiwan orchid industry featuring a large and colourful display of orchids varying from the more common varieties to exclusive ‘must-have’ orchids.

 

Each year, the event attracts around 200,000 orchid aficionados which include almost 3,000 industry professionals from abroad. The grand opening of this year’s show took place on March 1, 2019.

 

Only a few decades ago, growing orchids in Taiwan was an activity limited to a handful of dedicated hobbyists, attracting mostly rich professionals who could afford to collect the more expensive varieties and provide them with an ideal growing environment. Amateur growers have been cross pollinating species and creating unique hybrids which today are commercially grown. In the 1990s the government established a technical service team to help growers with problems with seedling propagation. The potted Phalaenopsis production has increased tremendously ever since, thanks to continuing R&D into tissue culture, better shipping techniques and the most ideal natural conditions.

TIOS has gained worldwide recognition with the UK’s Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) presenting their trophies to the best orchids in show.