Kenya flower growers are prepared for their busiest time of the year; the valentine season. Many farms have adopted various methods of capitalizing on this lover’s day. Farms trimmed their flowers and also planted more hecterage in the last months of 2016 to increase production during the season.
Gatoka Flowers Limited, one of the indigenous farms and has been in the flower industry for some decades is prognostic of making good sales during this romantic month. The farm is located in Murang’a County, just a few Kilometers from Thika town.
In regard to this year’s Valentine, Gatoka have put enough investment on the Furiosa variety which is red in colour by planting and trimming close to1.5 hectares. The average production of this rose in this farm is 200 stems per meter square. The rose depicts a strong sense of cupid presence with its good head size, long stem length and a shelf life of 13 to 14 days.
Other red varieties the farm has listed in the Valentine’s bouquet, anticipating to make an 80% to 100% flush are Madam red and Red ribbon. In addition, they have beefed up production of other varieties such as Marie Clair, Aqua, Athena, Dekora, outlaw and Sundance which the demand is also little bit high during the period.
As a consequence of Valentine’s Day, the price of flowers normally doubles to cope up with the overwhelming demand. ”Last year’s Valentine, growers didn’t make good sales because it fell on a Sunday; this year we are projecting good sales since it’s on a Wednesday,” said Robert Mutembei the Farm Manager.
The farm largely channels its flowers to direct sales, this is precisely done on confirmed orders by the clients. They primarily grow intermediate roses on 17ha piece of land. They solely plant on soil, which is red volcanic roam soil. Growing on soil is advantageous in terms of adding manure to boost the structure and nutrients in the soil.
“We get manure from the dairy unit comprising of 30 cows the farm owns we also do self-composting of the green waste. We add it to the soil after every 3 to 6 months. It’s tricky to grow on soil but we manage by choosing correct varieties, proper fertigation or spray programs, crop rotation as well as choosing the correct quality polythene cover hence curbing incidences of outbreaks such as downy mildew,” Mutembei averred.
Nonetheless, growing flowers consistently can be a gruesome venture if one doesn’t cope up with the changing weather trends and employ highly skilled laborer. “In the recent past rainy seasons, which usually results in outbreak of fungal diseases such as downy mildew and botrytis; interestingly, we have had no outbreak and very little rejections, may be less than 1% of our flowers,” Mr. Mutembei said.
The company being in rural set up has been of beneficial to the locals as it avail employment. Currently, the company boasts of 300 workers with 70% of the total comprising of women. They entirely depend on rain harvested water.
They have developed a motivational program for their workers where bonuses and gifts are usually offered to them on best performance to boast their morale and overall productivity. The Farm Manager said that after they make good profits of valentine season, they usually organize for a party to celebrate with them.
On their way forward, the company is looking at expanding an extra 3 hectares of assorted varieties and looking for new niche markets for their flowers as well as adding more clients.
Besides cultivating flowers, the farm has diversified to other activities. They are involved in small-scale production of French beans, bananas and sweet potatoes. Besides selling their produce to local markets, they give to their workers as well. Furthermore, the company has 50 hectares of coffee plantation.
Besides targeting Valentine Day, growers are also targeting International Mother’s Day which comes in March in countries like Britain and May in many other countries globally. By targeting these two major occasions, growers aim at making proper profit margins.