Growing Orchids For Income After Falling In Love With It

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KOTA BHARU – Wild orchids have been the main source of income for Ibrahim
Hamzah, 42, and his wife Norlinalizam Narrasid, 40, who runs an
orchid-selling business.

The couple from Kampung Tok Dor, Besut, Terengganu ventured into the
business three years ago after falling in love with wild orchids themselves.

Their desire to collect the unique varieties of wild orchids out there has
sent them on challenging quests into the hilly forests of Terengganu.

Today, the couple owns over 500 types of wild orchids, which they had
obtained from the jungles and suppliers all over Malaysia.

“The flowers are typically smaller (when compared with hybrid orchids) but
wild orchids emit a wonderful fragrance. They are also not that difficult to
care for, as all they need is to be properly hydrated,” he told Bernama.

Ibrahim’s “Aura Orkid Hutan dan Arca Kayu” (The Aura of Wild Orchids and
Wooden Sculptures) business is one of the 200 participants of the 2017 Orchids
and Flora Festival organised by the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority
(FAMA) and the Tunjung Rural Transformation Centre, here.

One of the more unique orchids in Ibrahim’s collection is the tiger orchid
(Grammatophyllum speciosum), the world’s largest orchid that is native to
Southeast Asia. It grows in crotches of large trees on exposed areas of the
lowland tropical forests.
“Tiger orchids produce numerous flowering stalks. Mine sometimes produce up
to 20 or 30. If the plant is healthy, the bloom can last for up to three
months,” he said.

Tiger orchids have been listed in the Guiness Book of Worlds Records as the
tallest orchid in the world, with specimens recorded up to 7.62m in height.

Other orchids that attracted a lot of attention at the festival was the
Bulbophyllum Lobbii, Bulbophyllum Claptonense, Bulbophyllum Liones and
Bulbophyllum Macranthum.

Ibrahim, whose background is in architecture, also sold hybrid orchids and
wooden sculptures at the festival.

As wild orchids grow naturally on trees, he decided to propagate them on
discarded wood for a more interesting appearance.

His interest in orchids stemmed from watching his mother plant wild orchids
from the forests of Hulu Terengganu during his childhood.

“There has always been a good demand and wide market for wild orchids.
However, what is of concern is that the number of wild orchids declining to
forest clearing for farming and logging at highlands,” he said.

He therefore hoped that there would be initiatives from government agencies
and educational institutions to research on ways to protect wild orchids from
extinction.
Ibrahim, whose business is also online, found that it was easier platform to
operate on and encouraged sales as well.

Hybrid orchid growers also believe that the variety had promising export
potential.

A supervisor at United Malaysian Orchids Sdn Bhd, Ho Kwai Fatt, said that
the demand for the variety was at times overwhelming.

“I have been in this industry for 30 years. I went to work with an orchid
businessman right after finishing school and found that the demand for orchids
is always high,” said the 49-year-old.

Information from FAMA revealed that orchids were planted on 2,610ha of land
in 2015 by 421 companies, 353 individuals and 19 government agencies.

The total production value for orchids in 2015 is RM96 million.

The areas where they are grown in the highlands are in Cameron Highlands,
Pahang; Ranau, Sabah; and Gua Musang, Kelantan. In the lowlands, they are grown
in Johor Bahru; Batang Padang, Perak; Kota Tinggi, Johor; and Selangor.

When launching the 2017 Orchids and Flora Festival, the Agriculture and

Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek recommended that
growers plant newer varieties of orchids to ensure continued export growth.

It would also help Malaysian orchids compete with those from other
countries, he said.

Ahmad Shabery added that the export of Malaysian orchids rose to RM13.2
million last year from RM11.9 million in 2015.

He hoped that orchids would be more than just plants grown for hobby but for
generating income as well.

The festival first held in 2014 manifested FAMA’s intention to widen the
agriculture market to increase growers’ income.

It is also a platform to ensure that agriculture products, particularly from
the floriculture and agro-based industries, could be accessed at an affordable
price.
— BERNAMA

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