A florist hosts a livestreaming show at Dounan Flower Market, Asia's largest fresh-cut flower trading market, in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Feb. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Jiang Wenyao)
KUNMING, June 13 (Xinhua) -- Surrounded by a rainbow of fresh-cut flowers, Huang Panpan and her husband began their shift of livestreaming as the night neared, and their work would not end until the sun came up.
At 8 p.m., the 36-year-old woman started her routine livestreaming on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. In front of Huang was a table decorated with a stack of fresh blossoms. She picked up a bouquet of pink spray roses for a camera close-up while her online followers hurried to place their orders.
Such a workday for the florist-turned-livestreamer and her husband frames the daily scene of the bustling Dounan Flower Market in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, and is indicative of China's burgeoning horticulture industry.
The couple started their fresh-cut flower business in their hometown, Liaocheng City of east China's Shandong Province, in 2016. At that time, they provided intra-city group-buying services for over 10,000 fresh-cut flower lovers via WeChat, a popular messaging app in China.
A worker transfers flowers at the Kunming Dounan Flower Market in southwest China's Yunnan Province, Jan. 31, 2023. (Xinhua/Chen Xinbo)
Time-consuming logistics and high costs soon became the couple's bugbears, as they were too far away from Yunnan, China's biggest fresh-cut flower production base. At the end of 2019, they moved to Kunming, where Asia's largest fresh-cut flower trading market, with a yearly trade volume of 11 billion flowers, is located.
"At that time, few would rely on livestreaming to boost their flower sales," Huang recalled. "Now, we have hired more than 20 local villagers to pack up and deliver flowers for us, and we rent a warehouse of about 5,000 square meters."
While Huang was actively interacting with her online audience, her husband Xiang Yancong busied himself purchasing flowers in the Dounan Flower Market. Shining a flashlight on the flower-heads, he closely examined their freshness and took note of prices of the day.
"During the daytime, tens of thousands of visitors from across the country pour into the Dounan Flower Market, while after 8:30 p.m. it becomes a wholesale market for florists like me," said the 34-year-old man, who planned to buy about 50,000 daisies, carnations and other flowers that day.
The couple also recruited two professional buyers to bid for roses based on varieties and grades displayed on a trading screen in the Kunming International Flora Auction Trading Center (KIFA) in the daytime. As the largest of its kind in Asia, the 900-seat trading center sold 11.6 million flowers during this year's Spring Festival holiday.
"Each deal at the auction trading center needs a mere four seconds on average to be inked -- an experience that easily sets one's heart palpitating," Xiang said.
Workers transfer trolleys of flowers at the Kunming International Flora Auction Trading Center in Dounan, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Jan. 31, 2023. (Xinhua/Chen Xinbo)
At around 1 a.m. the following day, Huang waved goodbye to her followers, putting an end to her livestreaming. Meanwhile, Xiang returned home with a truck full of fresh blossoms. It was time for the two to take stock of the flowers and pack them up for later delivery.
To keep the delicate flowers intact and as fresh as new, they skillfully wrapped the cut ends with moist sponges and secured the stems with cable ties before fixing the flowers in cardboard boxes.
"It is a race against the clock. Thanks to cold-chain aviation and high-speed railway logistics, the fresh flowers can be delivered to our customers within three days," Huang explained.
The couple is surely among China's most sensitive in feeling the vibrant, romantic flower industry boom. Over the past decade, China has recorded a growing middle class and its per capita disposable income has doubled. Many consumers no longer regard flowers as a luxury reserved for special occasions only, but rather as daily consumption goods to adorn people's leisurely lives.
About 30 years ago, the Dounan Flower Market was a street with roadside stalls selling flowers, but now Dounan has become Asia's largest fresh-cut flower trading market, selling flowers to more than 40 countries and regions including Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. Yunnan's fresh-cut flower growing area totaled 21,700 hectares in 2021.
"I used to buy flowers only when it was someone's birthday or for some anniversaries. But now, flowers have become a common decoration for my room and I buy them every week via livestreaming," commented a girl surnamed Wang, from Yuncheng City in north China's Shanxi Province, during Huang's live show.
Followed by about 1.7 million netizens, the florist couple receives an average of 3,000 orders worth 100,000 yuan (about 14,000 U.S. dollars) every day.
As the sun rose at around 6 a.m., the couple finished their busy day of work. The flowers they had just packed were awaiting early flights to take them to clients across China. ■