ACL FLOWERS , a Brand in Consistency & quality CHRYSANTHEMUMS

ACL FLOWERS , a Brand in Consistency & quality CHRYSANTHEMUMS

By Steven Mulanda

Flower farming in Kenya for years had been perceived as a preserve of big companies and foreign farmers. They are the ones known to produce the bulk of flowers especially roses. Small-scale farmers are now taking up the trade in droves.

The smallholders mainly grow summer flowers, which are used as fillers to blend the roses for perfect bouquets. The farmers are spread across the country in a fast growing and thriving trade that has seen them become exporters of the produce, earning handsomely.

One such person who has mastered the art of summer flower farming is George Githere who trades as ACL Flowers and is located at Kajiado County. Unlike other growers who are growing many varieties of flowers; George has perfected the art of growing only one variety and that is chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums, also called mums or chrysanths, are flowering herbaceous plants in the Asteraceae family. The name comes from two ancient Greek words: chrysos (gold) and anthemon (flower). The reason he chose the variety is that, it has a good market in the Asian countries. Many growers shun away from it because after every 3 months it has to be re-planted after the first harvest, making it tedious.

“Most growers prefer planting a crop that sustains for a longer period say 5 years, they don’t like planting now and then but for me I have embraced it. The beauty of planting frequently is you are consistent in the market and with a quality produce. One thing that affects many farmers is consistency in the market in terms of production and quality. We have had many guys doing onions and tomatoes today they are not in the market and by the time they will be back in the market, say after 6months, what will the customers be consuming? They will get it elsewhere,” he verbatim stated.

For the 4 years ACL Flowers has been in business, they have built a floriculture module that is driven by quality, consistency and loyalty to their customers which has seen the farm expand from cultivating on a quarter an acre to five acres and still expanding in bits due to the aftermaths of Covid 19.

In the flower industry the payoff pegs on the produce. “When one has good quality flowers, the price is not usually an issue because the quality sells itself. The main issue is the market whereby as a grower you have to choose which one suits you. They are markets where you find cash buyers, credit buyers and there are good credit payers; we have some clients especially from Asia who you give them on credit and you will never hear from them again. The problem with cash buyers they will always buy at a lower price. We prefer a mix of them because, cash buyers help in the day to day running of the farms errands, while good credit customers, is where the money is. These are the ones you agree on the exact payment date and they fulfill it. When you have quality produce, you have more customers getting interested,” he said.

George’s journey into flower farming began while he was undertaking a undergraduate degree and his interest was spiked by an old man from Nyandarua who had 4 students studying at the university. The man would pay for his children’s fees comfortably in one installment and clear everything, while his own parents were struggling to pay for him alone in the university. A closer scrutiny, he discovered the old man was not employed but was earning his living and educating his children comfortably from proceeds of summer flowers which he was cultivating for export market. “This really moved me, in fact it led me to undertake my dissertation on summer flower as a business model later in my masters degree. I visited many small scale farmers growing sumer flowers and was really encouraged by the work they were doing. Upon graduation it just dawned on me that I just need to grow flowers,” George explained.

Flower farming need farmers to perfect their art of producing while paying more emphasis on the quality of the produce. For ACL Flowers, the first year was a key learning process; getting to understand how to produce and market, while cultivating on a small piece of land. According to George, most people venturing into farming, inject a big capex but have a wrong notion of breaking even, after a short time which is misleading.

“Our flowers have been voted among the best in the market. For the last few months we have been trending in the export market and this is what we are really proud of. Initially I used to live in Nairobi and when I relocated to this place it has been a game changer in terms of quality and cost control. If you don’t live at the farm, people are always reluctant to change,” he said.
And as days ahead look rosy, the company says management, strategy, right decision making and team work is the mantra that is guide them to the other stages of growth. First they have managed to change the mindset of their employees to think like farm owners and not employees, when they attain their set targets, there is a token to thank them, so that they are motivated. For anyone venturing into flower farming, he says the market is huge. “As a beginner you have to start small and the minute you get your niche market, perfect your art of production and you will definitely make it”, he advises.

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