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Kenyan flower sector seeks new EU deal

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11- Horticulture stakeholders are looking to negotiate a trade protocol with the European Union to graduate from the current Lome Convention.

Kenya Flower Council Chief Executive Officer Jane Ngige says they want to amend the Lome Convention – under which the European Union provides aid and extends trade and tariff preference to African, Caribbean and Pacific countries – in order to secure market access.

Ms Ngige said this would offer a level playing field for flowers and horticultural products going to Europe, Kenya’s key export market.

She said there was need to have a trade protocol that was compatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) principles that ensured level playing field of member countries.

“The Lome Convention gives us preferential treatment but we want the same terms as other WTO member countries,” Ms Ngige said, expressing hope that a new protocol would be signed by November this year. 

It is hoped the move will sustain the current access to European markets with Ms Ngige adding that she does not foresee major objections from growers in Europe.

“The beauty about it is that we have competitive edge and we are certain we can still produce much more efficiently than most Europeans can especially because of the energy use,” she said.

She was speaking during the signing of a Sh4 million sponsorship for the upcoming annual Naivasha Horticultural Fair by Kenya Commercial Bank, set to take place in September.

The move is part of KCB’s plan to widen its footprint in all economic sectors as it continues its growth momentum across the five East African countries where it operates.

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“Naivasha is host to about 50 multinational flower and horticultural companies. This is a huge growth opportunity for KCB that is the region’s largest bank in terms of asset base standing at over Sh226 billion,” KCB Group Divisional Director Corporate Banking, Wilfred Sang said.

Mr Sang said the industry is the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector in the country also ranked second, in terms of forex earnings after tourism, hence the bank’s interest.

“This is an important growth channel for KCB that has the financial capacity to meet the needs of agri-businesses in Kenya. Be it business expansion, asset finance, mortgage or employee facilities we are able to offer banking services across all our 168 locations in the country,” he said

The bank is currently developing a horticultural finance product that is expected to boost its asset book in 2011 from the current 4 percent market share.

The fair aims to display the professionalism in the industry where clients and companies can network while updating growers and customers on innovations and business opportunities.

More than 150 exhibitors are expected at this year’s fair.

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