LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—Roses for Valentine’s Day and other flowers for the Baguio Flower Festival come from this province more known for its strawberries and vegetables.
According to the National Economic Research and Business Assistance Center, 11 of Benguet’s 13 towns engage in the cut flower trade.
These towns produce sought-after flowers such as roses, chrysanthemums and gladiola.
Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics show an increased production of roses, from 1.259 metric tons in 2002 to 1.406 metric tons in 2007.
The bulk of these roses are produced by growers like 44-year-old Samuel Ulman, who owns the flower brand “Samwel.” Ulman ships out 153,600 to 240,000 stems of roses per truck to the Dangwa flower market on Dimasalang Street in Manila.
Often referred to as the “Bahong King of Roses” by fellow growers and farmers, Ulman has been tending Holland rose gardens (which produce red, pink, white and orange roses) since 2003.
He started with a hectare of roses in Sitio Alno, which he financed using a P200,000 loan. Today, Ulman pays 30 employees to farm two hectares on a mountainside. His employees earn as much as P7,500 a month.
Andrea Kisse, 50, has worked on her rose gardens for five years at Sitio Central in Barangay Bahong. She says gardening is never a perfect science and the changing temperatures in January and February occa sionally bring fewer harvests.
Kisse says a grower could spend as much as P1 million on a hectare of flower gardens because it could produce enough flowers for export to Asian countries. She produces as many as 500 bundles (each bundle has 24 stems) of flowers, which she sells at Dangwa.
Julian Cayat, 49, says her family started producing roses in 1984 and invested in the American rose variety. Last year, she harvested 2,000 bundles (48,000 stems) of roses. This year, however, the cold weather only gave her 1,000 bundles (24,000 stems).
The volume of roses they produce dictates the profit they make.
In 2011, 24 stems of roses sold for P500 to P600. A bigger haul of roses in 2012 allowed farmers to sell 24 stems of roses for P300 to P350. This year, roses could sell for as high as P400 for 24 stems.
Prices could increase because of the Valentine’s Day demand on Thursday, rose growers here say.
The rose business enabled Cayat to send her children to school. Her eldest child is now a pharmacist. Her second child is a nursing graduate, while the youngest child runs a computer shop. Edgardo Espiritu and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
PHOTOS BY EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON