VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA – Sales of peonies from Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, are booming in Vladivostok after hitting the market in Russia’s Far East in 2009, virtually selling out every year because of their variety of colors and longevity.
“The market is close to Japan, and is also promising because of Russia’s popular tradition of family gardening,” said an official from a farming cooperative in Matsue, the nation’s largest peony producer. The co-op has great expectations, aiming to expand sales to cities as distant as Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In the business year to March, Matsue exported some 240,000 peonies to the Netherlands, 60,000 to the U.S. and 20,000 to Canada. Sales in Vladivostok began three years ago, when a shipping route was opened to Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture.
Vladivostok gardeners, particularly women, have flocked to buy Matsue peonies at an annual autumn sales event. Sales this year rose to 1,500 plants, up from 700 in 2010.
Matsue’s peony varieties are popular because of their long life, said Elena Andreeva, president of Russian importer AN-2.
At around ¥2,800 per seedling, Matsue peonies cost more than double the ¥1,300 that Chinese varieties draw, and are also more expensive than those from the Netherlands, which go for around ¥2,300.
“Itinerant female hawkers used to go door to door, peddling Matsue peonies across the nation,” said Takeshi Fukuma from Shimane’s trade promotion division. “We aim to emulate their perseverance as we try to find new customers to invigorate the local flower industry.”