Flower Farming in Kenya
Flower Farming in Kenya – Kenya is the largest supplier of cut flowers to the European Union. In Africa, it is one of the most prominent fresh flower exporting countries. Flower farming in Kenya is the most developed sector and accounts for about 40 per cent of all horticultural exports. It is dominant around Lake Naivasha and in Kinangop, Nakuru, Limuru, Athi River, Thika, Kiambu and Eldoret.
The infrastructure needed for the production of floricultural products is expensive and production per hectare is very high. Trade in cut flowers has become an important segment of international trade in horticultural products.
Flowers form a major part and account for about half of Kenya’s fresh horticultural exports. It is estimated that in Kenya, over 500,000 people, including over 100,000 flower farm employees depend on the floriculture industry impacting over 2 million livelihoods.
Flower Farming in Kenya – Main Production Areas
The main production areas are around Lake Naivasha, Mt. Kenya, Nairobi, Thika, Kiambu, Athi River, Kitale, Nakuru, Kericho, Nyandarua, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Eastern Kenya. The soil around Lake Naivasha has good drainage as is sandy. Kinangop, Limuru and Eldoret are cooler and ideal for certain types of flowers.
Floriculture in Kenya – Export
Kenya has seen phenomenal growth in exports of cut flowers, withstanding competition from Colombia, Ecuador, Israel, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda. The flower industry is expanding, with roses dominating the export market.The main cut flowers grown in Kenya are roses, carnations, and Alstromeria. Other flowers cultivated include, Gypsophilla, Lilies Eryngiums, arabicum, hypericum, Statice, a range of summer flowers amongst many others.
The main export season is between October and May. Some cut flowers are sold locally, mainly in Nairobi and Mombasa by street vendors and at floriculture shops in high/medium class shopping centres. The main markets for cut flowers is the European Union, particularly Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and France.
Kenya is the lead exporter of rose cut flowers to the European Union (EU) with a market share of 38%.
About 50% of exported flowers are sold through the Dutch Auctions while in the United Kingdom, supermarkets are the main outlets. Over 25% of exported flowers are delivered directly to these multiples, providing an opportunity for value addition at source through sleeving, labelling and bouquet
production. Kenya flowers are sold in more than 60 countries.
Kenyan exporters supply high quality roses and in good time to their customers. The EU is the main market that governs the quality standards of the Kenyan flower industry. These are extremely high and specify assortment and grading of cut flowers.
Flower Farming in Kenya – Background
Kenya’s horticultural sector currently ranks as one of the economy’s fastest growing industries, it is one of the top foreign exchange earner for the country.
The history of the export of fresh horticultural produce from Kenya dates back to the period before independence when Kenya, then a British colony, was required to contribute to the running of the budget for East Africa. After independence the industry continued to flourish with exports starting to go to Europe and thus opening up the potential for Kenya in the export market.
Overall exports to the European market started to increase in the 1970’s with the Netherlands being the largest importer, taking a 71 per cent share by volume, with most distributed through the auction system. Next came the United Kingdom on 20 per cent, followed by Germany on 6 per cent. Success can be attributed to Kenya’s ability to provide high quality products on a year-round basis, backed by daily airfreight arrivals to key destinations.
Floriculture in Kenya – Climate
Although Kenya is on the equator, considerable differences in altitude allow a great variety of climatic conditions from the hot coastal plain up to the cool highlands. A temperate climate prevails above 1500 m where daytime temperatures are from 22 °C – 30 °C and night – time from 6 °C – 12 °C. In the temperate area there are two distinct rainy seasons – “long rains” from March to June and “short rains” during September and October. Rain days are restricted to 60 – 80 days so there is excellent radiation most of the year – ideal for the year-round growing of quality flowers without the necessity of green house conditions.
Flower Farming in Kenya – Growth of the Flower Industry
The flower industry in Kenya has recorded growth in volume and value of cut flowers exported every year and has maintained an average growth of 20% per annum. This is despite mounting competition from Colombia, Ecuador, Israel, India, China, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Kenya’s export volume has recorded growth in volume and value of cut flowers exported every year from 10,946 tons in 1988 compared to 86,480 tons in 2006, 120,220 tons in 2010 136, 601 tons in 2014 and 122,825 in 2015. According to Horticultural Crop Directorate (HCD) in 2015, the floriculture industry earned Kenya Shillings 62.9 billion. On the global front, a growth of 5% is anticipated every year over the next five years.
The industry continues to attract investors due to solid infrastructure, favourable climate, global-positioning of Kenya and a productive workforce.
The sub sector has also recorded the highest growth in volume and value of cut flowers exported every year. It has had a growth rate of 35% annually in the last 15 years. The area under roses is expected to keep increasing every year.
Flower Farming in Kenya – Technologies Utilized
some of these technologies include:- drip irrigation, fertigation systems, greenhouse ventilation systems, net shading, pre-cooling, cold storage facilities, grading, bouqueting , fertilizer recycling systems to prevent wastage, wetlands for waste water treatment, artificial lighting to increase day length, grading/packaging sheds, and refrigerated trucks.