A beautiful new business sector is blossoming in Solomon Islands - flowers.

The Inaugural Solomon Islands Independence Day Floral Art Display was opened Sunday, and highlighted not only the magnificent flowers that blossom in the Solomons, but also the growing skills of the country's floral art designers.

The competition was part of an Australian Government project that is supporting flower producers in Solomon Islands to develop their industry.

The winners of the Best in Show prize were Rosemary Sade, Valeria Daula, Nelly Sakia and Margaret Chachi of Kakabona. The Australian Government presented a prize of $1000 for their funeral wreath, which incorporated spider orchids, crown flowers and bachelor buttons. The judges congratulated the winners for their harmonious use of colour and graceful symmetry.

Kamal Azmi, Development Cooperation Counsellor from the Australian High Commission, said the competition pointed toward a promising future for flower producers and art designers.

"Flowers are big business in Solomon Islands," Mr Azmi said. "The Australian Government believes the industry has great potential to expand, and it is delighted to support this growth."

Flower producers and designers are being assisted through the Value Chain Enterprise Development project, part of Australia's Community Sector Program. The project works to help grow small businesses by bringing them together, and developing skills to market their industry to the public.

"In the flower industry there are independent wreath makers, businesses that supply the pots needed to grow pot plants, businesses that supply ribbons, and the creative basket weavers," Mr Azmi said. "As the industry grows, it will help grow these other businesses as well".

A number of Solomon Islanders have been funded to visit Fiji to examine its successful flower industry, and Australia recently brought a group of experts from South Seas Orchids here to share their expertise with Solomon Islands producers. As a result, more than 300 people have now been trained in aspects of the business of floriculture and the science of floral art design".

Two businesswomen have been training floral art designers in Honiara and Auki, with wonderful results. Helen Waters of Tadra Flowers, Fiji's largest flower retailer, and Aileen Burness of South Seas Orchids, the South Pacific's largest producer and wholesaler of flowers, were impressed by the skill and creativity of Solomon Islands floral art designers.

"All we have done is provided some extra ideas and some small refinements," Ms Waters said. "Solomon Island floral art designers show magnificent imagination."

The project is encouraging producers and floral artists to form their own Solomon Islands Floricultural Council to guide the industry's development. The Australian Government has funded the production of two guides to assist Solomon Islanders to grow better flowers, which are available from the CSP Head Office, upstairs at the Tom Yu Building at Fox Street in Honiara.

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