, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – The Kenya flower industry expects high sales in exports to Europe during Valentines week, despite ongoing problems with the euro zone crisis.
Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) chief executive officer Stephen Mbithi said that the greatest volume of flowers will be shipped abroad between February 11 and 13, with total numbers expected to exceed last year’s figures.
“We sell at least 30 percent of our total raw sales in a year between Valentines and Mothers Day, which is 30 percent of US$500 million,” he said.
Kenya’s flower exports account for almost half of the country’s horticulture export earnings, and an estimated 109,950 tons of flowers were shipped abroad in 2011.
The earnings for 2011 seem to be rising, thanks to a favourable exchange rate for most of the year, despite early signs they could fall below target due to the economic crisis in Europe, a senior industry official said on Monday.
“The sales of our produce, which is normally sold to the high end part of the market is largely considered to be a luxury good, therefore we continue to watch the European situation very closely considering that at least 82 percent of all our sales are to the European Union (EU),” he said.
The exporting process takes less than 24 hours for a rose to be cut, boxed, shipped and sold at auction in the Netherlands, but Mbithi said the industry is taking steps to weaken its reliance on the region due to the uncertainty linked to the Euro zone crisis.
“Obviously we would like to maintain our market share in Europe, but we are trying to diversify to other markets because non Euro zone markets are looking healthier,” he said.
Growers are harvesting different varieties of flowers as well, even though roses still make up 60 percent of production.
Industry leaders are also encouraging small-scale producers, to create and export finished products, such as bouquets in order to give consumers more value for their money.