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Flower talk

THE GAME OF THE ROSE Niala Maharaj and Gaston Dorren International Books $17.99

Published: Wednesday 15 November 1995

-- ARE flowers no longer pure symbols of beauty or spirituality? The facts revealed in the book, though preliminary, present a sad story of the flower export industry in the Third World countries. The economic, social and ecological issues of flowergrowing and its role in sustainable development in the countries of the South, where foreign exchange is much sought after, have been critically analysed to bring out an impartial appraisal of not only the present situation but also its future.

In the writers' opinion, developing countries have a competitive advantage of low cost labour and tropical climate for production and supply of flowers to European markets during winter months when local produce is low and prices are high. But the use of huge amounts of chemicals like fertilisers, pesticides and preservatives in flower production causes environmental pollution and health hazards to workers in the greenhouse.

The authors have chosen a few key countries to describe the various aspects of flower industry, such as Colombia for socio-eco- nomic conditions of workers in greenhouses. Most of the developing countries which produce cut flowers in joint ventures for supply to the countries in the North, spend large amounts of foreign exchange for access to technical know-how, consultancy, plant material, greenhouses, equipment and chemicals from the Netherlands and Israel. Much of the financial benefits of such investments, they contend, are not likely to remain in the developing country.

Considering the high economic returns from a small unit of growing area, those involved in the flower industry for exports should take appropriate steps to overcome such problems and avoid the damages to health and economy of the workers and natural resources of the country.The authors are also sceptical of the role of this industry (in developing countries) towards relieving poverty or earning enough foreign exchange to pay the debts for sustainable development.

A useful book to those who are interested in joint ventures in the floriculture sector in India as well as bureaucrats, planners, technical experts, consultants, business entrepreneurs, environmentalists and economists. Nevertheless, roses and other flowers will forever remain symbols of love and beauty, and can play a very significant role in the national economy, provided safety measures are adopted to avoid environmental pollution.

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