, NAIROBI, April 14 – Kenyan flower exports exceeded vegetable and fruit exports for the first time last year.
Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) boss Dr Stephen Mbithi said flowers contributed 55 percent of exports, compared to the 45 percent for vegetable exports.
There are 240 exporters in the horticultural industry shared between flowers, vegetables and fruits farmers.
“It was not always like this. There was a time when fruits were ahead, then three years ago they were at par but last year flowers took the lead,” said Mbithi.
At the same time, he revealed that the horticulture industry is back on track with 80 percent of the workers displaced during the post election violence, returning to the farms.
Mbithi said that despite the sector experiencing losses of up to Sh1 billion during the height of the post poll violence, things are almost back to normal.
The export boss however called on the government to subsidise the cost of fertilizer, which combined with the 120 percent tax being imposed on plastic bags, has driven the cost of production very high.
On the other hand he allayed fears that the sector was getting serious competition from emerging markets in the region like Ethiopia and Tanzania.
Mbithi said that despite these destinations offering better incentives than Kenya, the country still remains the driving force in the region.
He said that while Ethiopia is exporting 150 million tonnes of produce, Kenya hit the 1 billion mark last year.
The FPEAK director admitted that infrastructure and the cost of production still remained the biggest impediments to further growing the industry.
Mbithi also said that the sector intends to better represent the issues of domestic growers, who make up 60 percent of the total export value.
This is after a section of the farmers raised concern over inadequate representation by the sector’s two umbrella bodies, FPEAK and the Flower Council of Kenya (FCK).
“After a meeting between FPEAK and FCK we formed a horticultural council which will look into the three branches, flowers, fruits and vegetables, and domestic produce,” he said, and added that it would be in place soon.