Executives stand beside butterfly orchids cultivated by Foshan Dingliang Phalaenopsis Industry Development Co Ltd in Guangdong province on Wednesday, when the company's seedings were exported to the US for the first time.
Foshan Dingliang aims to be a key player after sending its first batch of seedlings to the competitive U.S. marketplace
Weng Minqiang has to get the temperature and humidity just right for his butterfly orchid seedlings.
Environmental conditions inside his greenhouse complex in Foshan's Shunde district of Guangdong province are crucial to meet export regulations in the United States.
"It is a very precise procedure," said Weng, general manager of Foshan Dingliang Phalaenopsis Industry Development Co Ltd, a company he set up. "Export rules are demanding."
This will be his first U.S. order, a batch of 10,000 seedlings, worth ,000.
To mark the occasion, Weng even held a special ceremony in Shunde district on June 21.
"The butterfly orchids were given the green light by United States authorities after they passed a strict inspection and went through a quarantine period to meet the import standards required," he said.
The seedlings will be packed in a container and will travel by sea. It will be the first shipment from a Chinese company and Weng confessed he was nervous.
"I hope it is a good beginning," he said.
Still, Weng is confident that this is just the start of an incredible journey, which will see other Chinese horticultural nurseries from the region break into the U.S. market.
After all, he has a track record of success. Last month, his company Dingliang Biological Technology exported 1,000 butterfly orchid plants, worth about ,000, to Canada.
It was a crucial, first step. But the big prize is the U.S. as annual imports of butterfly orchids to the biggest economy in the world is 50 million, with 23 million seedlings, which are worth between million and 5 million depending on their size.
"Before we moved into the market only the province of Taiwan sold medium butterfly orchid seedlings to the U.S.," Weng said.
But now his company along with other Guangdong growers hope to export more than 1,000 containers, holding at least 20 million seedlings, worldwide in the years ahead.
His plans might sound ambitious, but the rewards outweigh the risks, although Weng declined to reveal detailed financial figures such as sales and revenue.
Butterfly orchid seedlings in the U.S. alone sell for between and each, which is about 50 percent higher than domestic prices.
"Production costs for exporting them are also higher than moving them around the country here," Weng said.
Xian Yangfu, deputy head of Foshan's Shunde district, acknowledged that local government is pushing to develop high-tech agriculture.
"Exports in flowers are expected to play a big part in the district's economic growth in the future," he said.
Butterfly orchids, cultivated in Shunde, have been exported to Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Located in the western part of the Pearl River delta, the region is known for its flowers and plants, which are sold across the country and overseas.
Yang Guohai, deputy director general of Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, confirmed that tighter inspection procedures and quarantine requirements would help to promote exports in high quality flowers and plants.
"We should be able to export more than 20 million medium butterfly orchid seedlings worldwide in the years to come," Yang said, adding that 11 Chinese companies involved in the sector have been given the green light to export to the U.S..