A montage of meticulously arranged bouquets, a kaleidoscope of colours and smells and a warm aura welcomed visitors and players in the floriculture industry at the Oshwal Convention Center Nairobi for this year’s International Flower Trade Expo, IFTEX.
And when the doors to the exhibition hall swung open that chilly Monday morning, 30th May, it was like the show never left despite having been on a two-year COVID-Induced break. Excitement was palpable and alive in the firm handshakes, prolonged hugs and conspicuous smiles as colleagues, business partners and friends reunited.
The auditorium, the venue of the opening ceremony, was filled to capacity as industry players welcomed what is the largest flower expo of its kind in Africa. The exhibition coming at a time when the flower industry had battled numerous odds, from the pandemic, the Russian-Ukraine war, exorbitant freight charges and capacity issues. Stakeholders therefore sought to place a pulse on these issues even as they celebrated the resilience of the industry.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are back, like we never left and I am happy to see all of you despite the challenges the industry has had to endure,” Dick van Raamsdonk the President of HPP Exhibitions, the organizers of IFTEX, enthused to the celebration of the participants in the auditorium. Dick went on to acknowledge that up to 80 per cent of participants had returned to the show.
The opening ceremony that set the mood, tempo and agenda of the three-day trade fair was officially opened by Hon. David Osiany, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade & Enterprise Develop-ment flagged by government representatives, representative of the flower industry and the Dutch Ambassador to Kenya.
“A message to all of you here today is that we all need to work together to continue to promote a positive brand image around Kenya Flowers. If the Kenya Flower Brand is eroded, it plays against all of us. So, each and every one of us who are producing or supporting the floriculture sector in Kenya has to play his/her part in this re-spect,” Richard Fernandes, the Chairman of the Kenya Flower Council told participants.
This year’s show was unique, as it set to explore the challenges that the industry has had to grapple with and finding sustainable solutions to them. As the issue of transportation of flowers continue to affect operations and exporters’ bottom lines, there has been a series of innovative suggestions to get flowers from farm to market cheaply and sustainably. One such plan has been sea freight which would address the runaway freight charges, capacity issues and ensure that the Kenyan flower industry advances its carbon neutrality agenda.
To this end, the Expo had organized the flowers by sea conference which was held on the second day congregat-ing growers, exporters, buyers, players in the logistics sector and government officials to explore the problems, come up with implementation mechanisms the transportation and deliberate on what the future hold for the industry.
In a bid to actualize the sea freight of perishables, Kenya and Netherlands signed a Framework of Cooperation that laid out the implementation guidelines including having a full-time position of an agrologistics coordinator to be based at the Kenya Flower Council for 2 years. The person will coordinate initiatives related to adoption of sea freight for perishables from Kenya.
“Both our countries have much to gain from further developing the Kenyan sea freight capacity. Investments done by Kenyan government in port and inland networks provides opportunities for a cool logistics infrastructure which supports adoption of agricultural exports to sea freight. The Netherlands has the technical expertise in this area and we look forward to working together in the development of the cold logistics for sustainable trade,” the Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya Maarten Brouwer explained.
The opening ceremony gave way to the heart of the expo, the showcasing of the various flowers on display and the meet and greet by various stakeholders with pomp and colour best describing the atmosphere. The exhibi-tors ranged from flower growers, breeders, agrochemical companies, media, and those in machinery and safety gear among others. They left nothing to chance in ensuring that their stands told their story and caught the visi-tors attention.
The Dutch Embassy booth for example captured the cordial trade ties that Kenya and Netherlands enjoy through a set of interwoven flowers that formed unique maps with conspicuous writing: ‘Kenya and the Netherlands partners in Agribusiness.’
Flower Hub is a company that sources and supply cut flowers from Kenya to niche markets globally. Its booth, one of the spectacles of the expo, had a ‘Flower Wall’, a set of shelves with small posy vases which showcased at least one stem of every type of crop the company had shipped over the past six months. Such was the beauty and creativity across the exhibition hall.
Selfies and photo moments took center stage as visitors flashed their smartphones and cameras to capture histo-ry while celebrating what had been the first and successful show after the pandemic.