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Horticulture Digest

Date Last Edited:  08/24/2001

Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service

Horticulture Digest #109


A new quarantine agreement, the Japan-Hawaii Burrowing Nematode Certification Program, has been developed to open the Japan market for potted ornamental plants from Hawaii. In this program, a nursery can obtain a certificate under which certain plant genera are grown under specified conditions, overseen by HDOA (Hawaii Department of Agriculture). HDOA inspects the plants and growing conditions during production, and conducts necessary inspections at the nursery site prior to shipping. At the time of shipping, HDOA issues a phytosanitary certificate which is recognized by USDA APHIS (United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), which converts it to a federal phytosanitary certificate.

In this manner, plants do not need to be transported to APHIS for inspection at the time of issuance of the federal phytosanitary certificate. Shipping of large volumes of plants by air cargo and surface shipping containers can be accommodated efficiently in such a program.

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Under traditional quarantine regulations, allowed plants may be exported to international destinations, such as Japan, as bare root or in media approved by the importing country, accompanied by a federal phytosanitary certificate.

The federal phytosanitary certificate (PPQ Form 577) is issued by APHIS and indicates to the importer that the items are free of plant pests and diseases. APHIS inspects the plants, certifies that treatments required by the importing country have been carried out, and issues certificates for those plants believed to conform to plant health import regulations of the receiving countries. The certificates are good for 14 days from the time of signing, and a fee is involved.

An import permit issued by the importing country is usually obtained by the customer and is required in order for the importer to receive shipment. Other documentation related to shipment, insurance, billing, etc., are usually required.

All exporters of protected plants which are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (ClTES) are required to have a ClTES permit which is issued by the U.S. Department of Interior-Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, a General Permit (Application No. 621) from USDA APHIS is required for all commercial exporters dealing with protected plants. The list of protected plants includes plants in the families Orchidaceae and Cycadaceae which are commonly grown as ornamentals in Hawaii.

APHIS can be contacted for further information on the listing of ESA/ CITES plants, inspection procedures, and permit application forms. APHIS offices in Honolulu and Hilo have application forms for both ClTES permit and General Permit. In the state of Hawaii, Honolulu is the only designated USDA port for export validation of ClTES documents for all protected plants. The port of Hilo is authorized for the validation of documents for Orchidaceae plants only. (Contributed by Mel Enriques, HDOA Plant Quarantine Branch, Hawaii County Supervisor.)

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In 1993 the Hawaii Export Nursery Association (HENA) began working with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to obtain a grant from the Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA-FAS) through WUSATA, the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association. Under this grant, Kristin Del Castillo of TradeWorks, Inc., Orlando, FL, completed a Japan market study in April 1995.

In May 1995, a trade mission was made to Japan. It was organized by the Japan Market Resource Network, HDOA, TradeWorks, Inc., HENA, APHIS-Tokyo, and the Hawaii industry. Lyle Wong and Janet Leister of the HDOA, Kristin Del Castillo, and industry members Malcolm Saxby (Puna Certified Nursery) and Warren Kobatake (Pleasonton Corp.) went to Japan. In July 1995, executives of Hibiya Kadan Floral Group whom the delegation met in Japan made a preliminary trip to Hawaii. The Hibiya-Kadan Floral division operates 170 flower shops in Japan, has opened their first floral shop in California, and are expanding into importing potted plants (the company's current flowering potted plants purchases is valued at $35 million annually).

In September 1995 a second year FAS grant was obtained through WUSATA to conduct a reverse trade mission in Hawaii. In this phase, 15 buyers from Japan, including a contingent from Hibiya Kadan representing their flower, foliage, interiorscape and exterior landscaping arms, the CEO of a Japan flower auction, and other major buyers were hosted in Hawaii.

During their visit to Hawaii in October 1995, they observed plants being produced under the new Japan-Hawaii protocol at California-Hawaii Foliage Growers. They attended the Hawaiian Mid-Pacific Horticultural Trade Show, visited nurseries, and met with numerous Hawaii nursery industry members.

Ralph Iwamoto, APHIS Attache, American Embassy Tokyo, and Lyle Wong, Plant Industry Administrator, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, orchestrated the two year effort to establish the Japan-Hawaii BN Certification Program. This included negotiations in Japan with the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF), and consultation with HENA, the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, and industry members. In February 1995 Mr. Iwamoto was successful in arranging for MAFF officials to visit a nursery during U.S. and Japan bilateral trade talks held in Hawaii. At that time they were hosted by HDOA and HENA, among other groups, developing the beginnings of a good working relationship.

In September 1995, Mr. Iwamoto reported that the quarantine protocol was accepted by a very gracious Japan MAFF. Three Hawaii nurseries prepared to test the new quarantine protocols.

The first test shipment of 100 plants, including bamboo and several species of Dracaena, grown in a peat:black cinder mix under the new quarantine protocol, was sent by air to Narita in the first week of December, 1995. Jeff Dring, president of California Hawaii Export Growers, Jimmy Nakatani, chairman of HDOA, Lyle Wong, and MAFF officials were on hand when the plants arrived in Japan. Plants were meticulously examined by the Japan inspectors and held for 24 hours observation. The shipment passed their inspection, signaling the first giant step in opening trade of plants into Japan.

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Highlights of Japan-Hawaii Burowing Nematode Certificatin Program

At this time, the proposed list of plants are all non-Radopholus citrophilus host plants, and include the following: Dracaena spp., Schefflera arboricola, Bambusa spp, Podocarpus spp., Araucaria heterophylla, bromeliads (except Ananas comosus), and orchids. Approved growing media include peat, sphagnum, bark, bark-charcoal, perlite, vermiculite, rock wool, and pumice. Cultural requirements include being in good standing in the Hawaii-California BN Certification Program, certain record keeping, compliance with specifications regarding walkways, benches, and bench post construction, and regular HDOA inspections.

For further information, inquiries should be made to Van Kashiwamura, Nursery Specialist, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, (808) 933-4447.

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Highlights Regarding Japan as a Trading Partner

The following excerpts are taken from two reports prepared by Kristin Del Castillo: (1) Japanese Market Study for Hawaiian Tropical Plants, and (2) Trip Report: Trade Mission to Japan for Hawaii Department of Agriculture and WUSATA, May 12-20, 1995. These reports may be obtained from the HDOA.

The Japan market is currently valued at $259 M for interior foliage. Summer is the peak sales period for foliage plants. The retail customer market looks for plants with a maximum height of 28". The interiorscape market looks for 5-6' height and 10-14" container plants. Although this market accounts for only 10% of the sales, it represents a growth area. The top selling dracaena is 'Massangeana'.

Sales of flowering potted plants has seen a 45% increase in 5 years, with potted orchids in the lead. These sell best during winter months.

Plant characteristics that Japanese buyers are looking for include right size, heavy caliper, variegated foliage, upright, narrow shape, unusual forms, perfect foliage, round leaves, "gift giving" status, and exotic plants of all types.

Hot items in Japan include miniature plants (2-3 inch pots), orchids, flowering trees, small fruit trees, anything new, lollipop patio trees, foliage plants that flower indoors, catchy names, care tags.

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Recommendations for Hawaii's Foliage Producers

[The following is quoted from "Japanese Market Study for Hawaiian Tropical Plants," Kristin Del Castillo, Trade Works Inc., Orlando, FL, April 1995.]

Potential exporters should carefully consider whether they can commit to the effort needed to be successful in Japan. Because the Japanese think in a long-term perspective, a profitable export program could take several years to develop. It is essential to have patience, flexibility, commitment, and cultivate business relationships through a high level of personal contact.

Establishing good relationships with key Japanese importers is the best way to build a successful foliage export program. Japanese trading companies and specialist plant importers handle most plant imports. The importer will evaluate market opportunities for Hawaiian plants. Working as a team and listening to recommendations on varieties, sizes, planting containers, and other factors will help you achieve success in Japan.

Because most Japanese nurseries are small, importers provide essential contacts selling and distributing your product. Importers distribute plants to growers in small quantities. They sell finished plants through wholesale markets nationwide.

Importers provide essential follow-up through their relationships with these growers. Supplying plants that growers can produce efficiently requires an understanding of the production techniques, climate, soils, and needs of Japanese growers. Importers provide this feedback and suggestions for product improvements. The best role for your Japanese partner is introducing new products. Partners can conduct production trials, show product samples, provide testimonials on product performance under Japanese environmental conditions, and offer technical assistance on production techniques.

Alternatively, Hawaii producers can work directly with the larger nurseries that import propagation material. It can be more difficult to locate growers interested in importing directly who can produce large quantities. However, this is a viable strategy for dracaena cane exports.

Finally, it is possible to work with the few large interior landscape firms that import finished plants directly. Because these firms import specimen plants for specific, large interiorscape projects, this is an intermittent business.

It is not advisable to attempt to cut out middlemen or lower prices by supplying finished product that does not meet Japanese quality standards. Work through a grower who will hold plants for recovery after arrival and resell Hawaii plants at their best quality. Hasty, cost-cutting strategies will negatively affect the reputation of Hawaii plants and long-term market opportunities.

We recommend that Hawaii growers select one or two key contacts or opportunities and build their exports carefully. Do not overstate product availability or make promises that cannot be met. Japan's plant imports are three times larger than Hawaii's entire foliage industry. Hawaii's industry has the potential to grow, and when handled properly, the Japanese market represents great opportunity for that growth.

Members of the Japanese trade interviewed for this study recommend that Hawaii suppliers of interior landscape plants develop partnerships with growers in Kagoshima and Okinawa or with importers serving growers in those areas. That is because of the heavy palm production in the Kagoshima area, and the similarity of the climate and products grown in Okinawa.

Establishing good relationships with key wholesale markets can be an important supplement to sales efforts with importers and individual growers. Although these wholesalers do not import product directly, they are vital to distribution and will request Hawaii product from importers or Japan growers.

Hawaii has a positive image in Japan. This would enhance export sales promotion. Such promotion would be most effective for introducing new products to the market, particularly exclusive, unusual varieties or forms. For example, a collection of "Flowering Plants from Hawaii" would have universal appeal among Japanese consumers. Similarly, a trade promotion of Hawaii dracaena cane would differentiate Hawaii product as fresher and better quality than Central American sources.

Ruth Iwata, iwata@hawaii.edu

Department of Horticulture, CTAHR
University of Hawaii at Manoa

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