As Kenya and Ethiopia continue to dominate the flower production and export space in Africa capturing markets across Europe, the Americas, Australia, Middle East and even within Africa, other African nations are emerging and promising the market powerhouses a run for their money.

Ecuador, Columbia and Kenya contribute an estimate 31 per cent to the $8.94 billion global fresh cut flower industry. While a bulk of African countries export flowers, Kenya takes the lion share at 62 per cent while Ethiopia follows with 24 per cent.

“Over the last ten years, the cut flower industry has been thriving in the African continent. The USA and the European Union are presently the largest buyers of cut flowers. While Kenya and South Africa are the two nations leading in flower export. International flower exports have greatly increased in value in the last ten years. For this reason, the independent freight forwarders in Africa are increasingly focusing on perishable logistics,” notes The Global Logistics Network, a global association of independent freight forwarders.

But as more African countries discover the lucrative floriculture market and the need for diversification grows, they are investing in the industry which has put the continent in the global floriculture pedestal. This has also been bolstered by favourable climatic conditions conducive for flower growing, development of flight routes to Europe ,Asia and Middle East that traditionally have expressed appetite for flowers and proximity to Europe that has made it ideal for cut flower logistics.

New kids on the block

Rwanda has been one of the emerging African nations that has been aggressive in the production and export of flowers with the government throwing its weight behind the sector through investment and incentives to flower growers.

Bella Flowers Ltd a government owned flower farm that started operations in 2016 with a focus on bolstering the foreign exchequer has grown from the initial 20 hectares to the current 100 hectares while employing 1,000 people. It is the country’s largest flower farm and predominantly grows rose flowers.

Last year, the farm’s production was approximated at 72 million stems which earned the country $10.2 million or Ksh1 billion according to National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB)

“Established as a strategic investment to boost the floriculture industry, Bella flowers Rwanda mission is to grow into a pioneer of excellence in the production of high-quality roses for export to international markets,” reads the vision of the company in its website.

Among the rose flower varieties grown in the farm include Athena, Proud, Magic Avalanche, Yelloween, Moonwalk, High and Magic, Patz, Espana, Furiosa, Prestige, Tacazzi, Nicoletta, Neworleans, Deepwater, Ace Pink, Revival, Bellerose and Sobet Avalanche.

Zimbabwe, another force to reckon with in Africa’s floriculture industry is bouncing back from years in the doldrums. In 200l, the Southern African nation was the second largest exporter of cut flowers in Africa after Kenya. It was also the fifth biggest exporter to the European Union. It was exporting flowers worth over $60 million globally according to the Export Flower Growers’ Association of Zimbabwe.

However, the exports fell by 95 per cent to $3.1 million in 2015 in what was attributed to strict export requirements that were introduced by the government.
The country is now looking to shore up its volumes with the rebound attributed to investment by small scale traders, large farms and incentives by the government.

Roses account for 70 per cent of all flowers grown in the country with an estimated 350 hectares of land being grown in Zimbabwe include proteas, asters and chrysanthemums. The flowers are exported to key markets including Europe, Australia, Middle East and African countries among them South Africa.

In Ethiopia, a stronger player in the global floriculture, Hansa Flowers is the the second biggest flower producer and exporter company. It is located in the highlands region of Oromia grows over 50 unique varieties. It particularly specializes in large head-sized Cut Roses with head-sizes from 5-7.5 cm.

Uganda has been betting on its floriculture industry to increase its national purse, having expanded area under production from 2 hectares in 1992 to more than 20 farms covering over 192.1 hectares currently. The industry contributes $30 million in foreign exchange each year and supports the livelihoods of over 400,000 individuals according to government figures.

Uganda largely produces roses and cuttings. Among the flower farms that are putting the East African nation in the global market are Pearl Flowers Ltd that grows roses in consumes 20 hectares of the finest volcanic soil. Its rose portfolio include Athena, Bell Rose, Fushsiana, Fire Catcher among others.

RoseBud Limited is Uganda’s largest exporter of roses, taking up 40 per cent of Uganda’s raised export market. The farm exports some 12 million stems each month which are grown on 50 hectares of land. Key varieties in its production include Athena, Labelle, Furiosa, Ace Pink, Banjo among others.

Promising outlook

As the world rebounds from COVID 19, favourable weather, demand for flowers both in the auctions and the direct markets take shape and adoption of smart agriculture grows, more African countries are bound to delve into flower farming due to the promise of boosting foreign earnings, growing economies and creating jobs.

“The continental free trade area will also play a pivotal role in helping African countries trade with each other. With the numerous barriers to trade that have hampered the inter country trade having been eliminated, this will foster more agricultural trade even with floriculture. This, coupled with emerging international markets that have shown great appetite for African flowers from Russia to Middle East will bolster the African floriculture industry,” said Matthew Mwiti an agriculture economist from the University of Nairobi.

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