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Thursday, September 26

St. Lucia Floral Cooperative Field Trip

The St. Lucia Floral Cooperative Society Limited (SLFCSL) is the primary representative body of the flower producers in St. Lucia since its establishment in 1999.  Previously, the organization named the St. Lucia Flower Growers Cooperative performed this function. A historic perspective provided in “Profiles of Farmer Organisations in Saint Lucia” a publication of IICA, speaks of the Flower Growers Cooperative in its formative years as “experiencing the customary growing pains characterized by the vicious circle: farmers do not take an active role in the organization because the group cannot offer services, and the group cannot offer services because their membership is small and the farmers do not play an active role”.  From its headquarters at Vide Bouteille, Castries the SLFCSL manages its island-wide membership for increased productivity and developing local, regional and international markets. Some of the products marketed by the SLFCSL include anthuriums, heliconias and ginger lilies.
In the spirit of volunteerism, I have accompanied the SLFCSL on several field trips to their membership. The purpose of the interaction is to facilitate dialogue on production challenges and other concerns of the members. If you are new to the industry as I was, you will the following notes interesting:

Orchid production is growing business in St. Lucia. Although production has increased, large quantities of these blooms are imported to meet market demand. When bought from the Tissue Culture Lab at Union the medium used is sphagnum moss. However, the SLFCSL recommends washed pebbles as a sustainable option for transplanting with a small part of the initial sphagnum moss. For more orchid photos, please visit the D.I.G Facebook photo album.

The ant, the farmer; the shepherd to be more precise. The symbiotic relationship between ants and mealy bugs is termed mutualism. Mealy bugs produce a sugary substance called honey dew, a source of nourishment for the ants. In exchange, the ants tend the mealy bugs, often “shepherding” the “herd” of mealy bugs to the better "grazing pastures" in softer leaves and protecting them from predators. The delicate balance: Without the ants to consume the accumulation of honey dew, sooty mold would cover the area of the leaf and prevent the plant’s food manufacturing process resulting in growth retardation. On the other hand, the ants also destroy the flowers by building their nests in the blooms. This was observed in heliconias.
The ant, the farmer

The white fly is a major pest challenge to the floral industry, with particular effect on orchids. They too produce honey dew which is growth medium for sooty mold.
Anthurium leaf: white flies on the underside (left); sooty mold on the top (right)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Flowers of any kind are generally considered beautiful. Someone once commented that the beauty is powerful to stave off hunger. You would agree that the attraction of flowers is predominantly the brightly coloured petals. Consider then the beauty of “green anthuriums” and “brown hibiscus” hybrids.
Is this your kind of beautiful?
Saint Lucia flower production is not characterized by large farms, but primarily by backyard production. 
Feel free to contact the SLFCSL for assistance when you decide to start your venture or to participate in its floral subsciption service.


St. Lucia Floral Cooperative Society

Profiles of Farmer Organisations in Saint Lucia

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