In order to get the weed mats and tree tubes to the subsistence farmers who will be using them, marketing channels will need to be developed in Nepal, as most Nepalese do not have access to the internet. Since both weed mats and tree tubes are agricultural products, the best strategy to selling them would be through already established retailers, that sell fruit seeds, agricultural tools, or greenhouse equipment. Some of these sales channel may include nurseries such as ‘Everything Organic Nursery’, which is located just three hours east of Kathmandu and sells everything from organic tree nuts to cherry seed (Everything Organic Nursery, 2016). Or through the company ‘Crop Protech’, a small business located in the heart of Nepal, which specializes in the sales of handheld garden tools and non-toxic pesticide sprays (CropProtech, 2016). By creating sales intermediaries, Nepalese can buy the weed mats and tree tubes conveniently through local sellers, eliminating the need to buy in large bulk, or over the internet.
Tree tubes and weed mats are not a new invention of the 21st century, meaning that many variations of these products have been created, improved upon and technologically advanced. With its first patent being submitted in 1876, the tree guard was created with the purpose of preserving root health and providing protection the tree trunk (Cottman, 1876). Tree guards are similar to that of tree tubes as they provide protection, but guards are added to the tree after a strong root system and tree base has been developed. These guards tend to be made from a plastic mesh, or steel bars, which results in them being less cost efficient (Cottman, 1867). Since weed mats are used to resemble mulch, mulch itself could be used alternatively. Mulch is a cellulosic fibrous biodegradable product, consisting of many layers which are compressed together, forming a product that prevents weed growth (Kulp, 1987). There are two main reasons why the plastic mulch is preferred over traditional mulch. Mulch releases phytotoxic substances which can be harmful to plants in the surrounding ecosystem and mulch is expensive to ship, as it has a high weight content (Sheehan, 2003).
With online sales becoming an ever larger marketplace for buyers looking for cheap deals, the quality of products continues to decrease. One competing tree tube one may come across is the recyclable ‘corflute’ tree guard. This product is manufactured in Shandong, China and retails for about, five guards for $0.10 US dollars (Alibaba.com). These imitation tubes allow for protection from UV rays and are shaped like a triangle to allow for easy removal after the tree has outgrown them and stability from harsh winds, but need to be held up using a small wooden stick. The material used is a cheap plastic making them very flimsy, but able to be folded as they have bendable edges. As China is one of the largest plastic producers worldwide, it comes as no shock that they produce a cheap plastic version of the weed mat. A company by the name of Guangzhou Yu Tai Plastic Co. specializes in plastic film, which is then made into plastic weed matting. These mats retail for $1500 US dollars for a one-ton role and contain 100% Polypropylene (Alibaba.com). This makes the product non-biodegradable, meaning it is both an issue for removal and the environment, as after use it needs to be disposed into a landfill. Both the ‘corflute’ tree guard and plastic weed mats are cheap in comparison to the Canadian exports and are located within close proximity, but with these products, the environment is compromised and cheap materials may result in product failure, ultimately leading to inefficient crop growth.
Should Nepal Import Weed Mats and Tree Tubes?
Even though there may be cheaper alternatives and large sellers of knockoff products in China, the proposed export of high-quality weed mats and tree tubes from Canada will still be more beneficial to both Canada and Nepal. These two products will provide faster growth time, protection from the elements, an environmentally friendly alternative to herbicides, and above all, products that can be depended on to increase the yield of fruit trees (Kulp,2016). These weed mats and tree tubes will improve the livelihood of Nepalese farmers, while increasing the yield sizes at a quicker rate, ultimately making them a much needed import for Nepal.
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