Overcoming challenges faced by Kenya flower industry

Flower Watch in-conjunction with Crop nutrition and Real IPM held a floricultural stakeholders meeting recently at The Pot Hotel in Naivasha. The meeting was to deliberate on some of the challenges the flower industry faced in 2018 and what measures the industry could adopt in 2019 moving forward.

While the floriculture industry in the country has been poised to grow to greater heights with new emerging markets such as Asia and America, Clement Tulezi the CEO of Kenya Flower Council pointed out that growers have to be innovative to mitigate the challenges that arose in 2018. “As we try to navigate the future of the industry, I would state here that the industry realized 91 billion in the first ten months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017 where a total turnover of 71 billion was realized,” he said.

The CEO decried that as many growers from Ecuador and Colombia work as a team while attending international exhibitions, Kenyan growers don’t act the same, opting to enclose themselves in their little stands. This he revealed prevents the Kenyan flowers from competing well worldwide.

During the meeting, it was discovered that most growers prefer not to allow other growers visit there farms since they are growing niche varieties which have niche markets hence fearing competition from fellow farmers.

Sally Share, Senior Trainer and Quality Expert at FlowerWatch, opined that 2018 saw growers in Kenya experience extraordinary difficulties than never before. First there was uncertainties in weather patterns across the country with some months experiencing very hot conditions and very cold conditions which led to many wilting of flowers as well as popping up of many pests and diseases.

“January and February 2018 were very hot. March to September where extremely wet and cold, October to December the market was flat with flowers being purchased at lowest prices ever experienced in the industry especially in the Auction Market since its inception. This also affected direct sales buyers who have fixed prices reducing their orders for direct markets by almost fifteen percent since they could buy flowers at a cheaper margin from the Auctions ” she explained

To overcome this challenge, it was advised that during low seasons, growers need to be exporting premium quality that they grow to keep their market. “I was disheartened as I traversed many farms across the country and found out that they were still harvesting flowers including the standard flowers. This, they were spending more money on labor, sleeves, boxes and even freight charges and they were not recouping back their money for all this,” she sympathized.

False codling moth (FCM) hit flowers by close to 10% which led to many interceptions in Brussel, tainting the image of the country. KEPHIS have urged all growers to adopt more traps to ensure mass trappings of pests which are climate oriented. The players in the industry resolved to involve IPMs manufacturing companies when dealing with specific markets that are sensitive to various pests.

Fertilizer shortage was also highlighted in the seminar with most growers pointing out that substrates with less calcium did not hit the market as the government went a head to crack down on illegal fertilizers being imported in the country.

According to Ruth Vaughan Technical Director at Crop Nutrition, the institution carried out several visits on farms trainings on how growers could make alternative fertilizers from the waste they emit from their farms and also they took samples of the various recipes.

“Of the many trials we carried out, we discovered that we could make more fertilizers of not only calcium substrate but other variables that growers could use to supplement fertilizers they receive from their suppliers. This will ensure creative minds finding alternatives with homemade solutions,” she said.

David Dass the General Manager of FlowerWatch said that 2019, the way forward for growers is to invest more on flowers post harvest.

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