For small scale summer flower growers, attaining unique marketing standards gives one an edge in the competitive business. Once there, a grower should cope with supplying high quality flowers, being consistent and dependable thus an assurance to the buyer.
Jerome Heeve, the Director of Aver Flora Limited reveals that venturing into flower farming business without market knowledge nearly led to the collapse of his business due to the massive loses he incurred.
This made the company to diversify from solely growing the Arabicum and included other assorted varieties such as Mobydick, Tuberose, Craspedia and Army rose. They also opted out of the auction market and began direct sales, penetrating to other new markets such as Australia, China, Japan, Britain, Germany and Netherlands.
The company began flower cultivation 15 years ago by leasing the lands they farmed, before purchasing their own. They export 30,000 stems of different varieties annually. “We have 6 acres piece of land in Nanyuki where we grow Arabicum, Mobydick and Craspedia and another 4 acres in Karatina entirely on Army rose which is our favorite variety. We export 2 to 3 tonnes of Army rose per week,” Jerome elucidated.
Apart from growing flowers in their farms, the company has subcontracted farmers in Limuru, Thika, Nanyuki and a long Kangundo road. They provide their farmers with seeds and fertilizers and eventually purchase the flowers.
Summer flowers are heavy feeders of both water and fertilizer and require being grown where there is reliable water source.
The market of summer flowers is somehow tricky. Though the longer the stem the better the price; but this sometimes does not apply, as less heavy boxes of flowers are preferred because of freight charges. A box of summer flowers contains on average 300 stems.
Locally, he says that the price of summer flowers can hit a low of 20 shillings as compared to Europe where the price can hit a low of half a Euro. Winter is the best period in Europe to sell more volumes of flowers as production is low because of the cold weather.
Jerome is a trained psychologist who has worked at Kenyatta National Hospital before venturing into flowers. He reveals that flowers provided him with an allure that transcends the seasons and evoke emotions.
Currently Aver flora is at an advanced stage of acquiring 10 acres piece of land in Emali, Makueni County where they are targeting to grow the Gyposilia and China world variety.
“These varieties are on high demand in the market and we want to capitalize on them to attract good profit margins,” Jerome said.
One of the challenge small scale farmers are grappling with is accessing finances. “Financial lending institutions consider flowers as perishables hence it become difficult to get a loan. Even if one has an established market they usually turn someone down“, Jerome highlighted.
Furthermore, high cost of freight is a pain to small scale growers as it ends up consuming half of their proceeds. “One needs to export large volumes to be assured of better returns even after deducting the cost of transportation, “Jerome explained.
His driving force is the inspiration he has gotten from other players in the flower industry and also to capture the potential which the flower business presents.”I love challenges and farming is one of them. When my company was on its knees i had to look for ways to be back in the flower industry,” he highlighted.
Driven by the zeal to expand, Jerome’s future plan is to diversify to growing roses. His advice for those who want to venture into flower farming and have less capital, to begin with summer flowers as they do not require a lot of finances.