NAIROBI, August 6 – Kenya’s flower industry intends to increase the production of summer flowers, also known as field flowers, into its bouquet of exports by 10 percent, in the next 3 years.
The country is traditionally a rose flower grower but it hopes to expand to summer flower production through diversification of both its markets and products.
The flowers, which are mostly grown by small scale holders directly under the sun as opposed to green houses, will add to Kenya’s much needed export earnings and help small scale growers access the international market.
Kenya Flower Council Executive Director, Jane Ngige, observed that even though the industry was currently meeting its targets, accounting for 36 per cent of Europe’s market for cut flower imports, the emergence of new markets notably Japan and the United States had provided an opportunity to expand production.
Ngige said to secure market share, the industry was also adding value to export roses, as competition increased notably Ethiopia, China and Israel.
“For instance, we usually export our flowers in box form but now we want to be exporting them as bouquets which are a final product,” Ngige told Capital Business.
The American market could be set for major growth following the signing of the Open Sky Agreement between Kenya and the US Government.
Industry sources intimated that Delta Airlines is expected to make its maiden flight to JKIA in November this year.
Still, the industry is concerned that rising jet fuel prices may spoil the party as the cost of freight is likely to remain inordinately high. The industry is asking the government to consider lifting the aviation fuel surcharge in order to counter this obstacle.
“We would also like the Kenya government to be more aggressive in marketing flowers abroad the way it has done with tourism,” Ngige said.
The Japanese market, on the other hand, has been a difficult one to penetrate for Kenyan flower growers due to stringent export requirements.
For instance, cut flowers have to pass through a fumigation process before being cleared for the Japanese market. Nevertheless, Kenya is currently the number three exporter, with a 19% market share, after India and Korea.
Recently, President Mwai Kibaki asked Japan to consider a partnership whereby fumigation services would be made available to exporters at the JKIA to enable local horticulture farmers meet the requirements for entry into the lucrative Japanese market.
In terms of marketing, Ngige said the sector hopes to hinge on the Brand Kenya initiative to meet its targets for the industry.
She said they’re also working on a number of initiatives, including training inspectors to the level that would create market confidence as well as exchange programmes between the Japanese and Kenyan inspectors.
The Executive Director estimated the current Japanese exports to be worth over $2 million and growing fast, thanks to joint promotions between JETRO and the Kenya Flower Council.
The Council is also working on improving standards among the small scale flower growers to enable them meet international standards. Last year, the council encouraged the formation of the Flower Vendors Association and registered about 300 members.
The vendors presently provide the main market for the small scale growers but the informal nature of their trade has made it difficult for them to survive in the delicate flower business.
Among the issues being addressed include helping vendors formalise their business away from hawking and developing the capacity for self-regulation among the small scale growers to help them gain international recognition.