Kenya flower industry Blooming through the odds

Kenya flower industry Blooming through the odds


Despite undergoing one of the most devastating periods in its history, the Kenya floriculture industry has surmounted the odds to remain one of the top global producers and exporters of flowers winning global admiration and recognition. Victor Juma the Business Manager for East Africa at Syngenta, in an interview with Hortfresh, highlighted the trends, dynamics and issues that have shaped the Kenya flower industry in the recent past and what that portends for the future of the industry.

Q As an industry player, what would you say have been the outstanding issues and trends that have shaped the flower business in the recent past?

The cut-flower industry in Kenya provides direct employment to an estimated 150,000 people, majority women, and overall, creates employment for more than a million people indirectly, impacting in excess of 6 million lives. Regulatory and market requirements are becoming stringent and there are increased trends toward sustainability with the use of biologicals and biostimulants in integrated pest management (IPM) systems. Environmental stewardship and sustainability remain a common goal among the key players in the ornamentals value chain. The sector has proved resilient despite the recent challenges posed by the prolonged impact of covid.

Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges to the horticultural sector in Kenya. As water and land resources become scarce, growers must get the most out of every hectare. Seasonal patterns, both for temperature as well as (onset of) rainfall are changing. Climate change influences the ecology of weeds, pests and disease, with possible implications for crop protection and pesticide use. Climate change is a confounding factor to the spread and establishment of pests such as the false codling moth (FCM). Climate change is likely to cause changes in host physiology, the life cycle of pests and diseases. Temperatures above the optimal has led to infestation of insects such as mites, thrips mealybug and aphids.

In 2020 COVID -19 exposed how vulnerable our supply chains are, and many growers have raised an alarm over the increased costs of airfreight. This has presented an opportunity to unlock the potential for exporting flowers and vegetables by use of sea freight. There are obviously key lessons to be learnt from these initiatives.

Q What have been the main challenges affecting the flower sector and how has players tackled these challenges?

Challenging sustainability goals – green solutions, loss of active ingredients and restricted labels, full substitutes with same level of efficacy are not readily available, ‘Zero Tolerance’ – means that ‘no visible insects/mites and diseases, new pests/diseases due to more selective CP solutions. Introduction of biocontrol’s and IPM compatible solutions, alternation of chemicals with different MoA to avoid build-up of resistance are some of the mitigation measures adopted by growers.

Today’s farmers need more sustainable ways of growing their crops, that respond to consumers’ demands. Syngenta is working closely with growers to increase the average productivity of their crops without using more land, water or inputs. With crop biostimulants like Hicure, we are unlocking the rich possibilities for plants and soil health innovation, harnessing nature to protect and promote plant growth effectively and sustainably.

Q Any comments on the review of pesticides in the Kenyan market?

We appreciate concerns for sustainable agriculture. Ornamentals and Flowers are mainly produced in greenhouses and are susceptible to several pests and diseases. ‘Zero Tolerance’ for all exported flowers and ornamentals means that ‘no visible insects/mites and diseases should be observed on the cut flowers. Grower’s practice IPM by using beneficials among other solutions in line with market requirements and at the same time still require chemicals to ‘clean’ the plants prior to harvest and shipment.

Q What do you foresee as the future of the industry?

The industry will continue to bloom with increased technology & innovations as environmental stewardship and sustainability becomes a common goal for key stakeholders.

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