For Kashmiri tulips, it may be destination Dubai this year and Holland the next.
While the commercial growers in Kashmir are exploring the Dubai market to supply tulips this Valentine's, negotiations are also on with Holland , known for tulips across the world, who is looking at the valley to outsource flowers when their own are not ready.
The reason say experts, valley tulips mature a month and half before the European ones. While the tulips in the Valley mature in May, it takes mid June for the Holland tulips to bloom to full.
``Though the idea is still at conceptual stages but experts from Holland have been visiting the valley to study tulip quality and production capacity since last year. We are also in constant touch with Dutch embassy who are trying to facilitate the projects,'' Dr GS Naqash, director, Floriculture Department in the state.
The Dutch growers are also looking at a buy-back partnership with private growers. ``They have been talking about giving us small bulbs and buying them back once they mature. This will help them meet the demand of the countries in Southern Hemisphere where cultivation time or the winter months are much earlier,'' said Javed Ahmad Shah, in charge of the tulip magnificent tulip garden on the banks of Dal lake,
Favourable weather conditions, besides cheap labour makes Kashmir a good option for the European farmers.
The tulip garden which was established in 2007 has been drawing tourists to the Valley in chilly March to witness the breathtaking tulip garden which has a bloom of 12 to 13 lakh tulips with 60 varieties of flower every year--in spring. The Indira Gandhi memorial garden is the largest tulip garden in Asia.
After establishing the garden, the government is encouraging commercial plantation of tulips in the Valley, with the hope of carving itself a market share in the $11-billion international floriculture trade and also adding jobs. A pilot project involving farmers was launched in three districts-Anantnag, Budgam and Srinagar to grown tulips for valentine.
The green house cultivation was to ensure the flowers production in February which is a month ahead of the bloom time in march.
"We had given bulbs to the farmers on an experimental basis. Our target was just 50,000 tulips last year. We have a huge market in Delhi and Mumbai but we are also looking at options like Dubai. Today, in Delhi markets, you get a bunch of tulips for no less than Rs 600-700, but our tulips will cost less than Rs 20-30 per piece," said Dr Naqash.
India now imports the flower from China. Once the commercial cultivation starts experts says Kashmir can meet the demand.
The tulip cultivation is different than other flowers as it requires refrigeration treatment for about 10 weeks before planting the bulbs and cold storage for saving the bulbs from one season for the next.
Government has involved 15 flower growers in the buisness this year.
`` Each cultivator has been given about 10,000 to 20,000 bulbs for start and they are likely to have more flowers next year,'' said Nusrat jahan Ara, president flower growers association.
``Though initially we are looking at the domestic market only but as we have a direct flight to Dubai we are getting orders from there,'' she added.
The tulip cultivation has started as the ideal time for planting tulips is late November to mid-December.
When the soil begins to thaw in late winter and early spring, the shoot begins to grow again and emerges from the soil. By early or mid-March, the earliest tulips are out braving the elements and opening their colourful goblets. The flowering season extends through mid-April to early May.