Tapping the insatiable Demand for Kenyan flowers

With a diversified flower portfolio, increased innovation adoption and modern farming technologies, Kenya’s floriculture industry has continued to weather storms to remain one of the global frontrunners in the flower business. This has further been bolstered by emerging markets that continue to express insatiable demand for Kenyan flowers.
Even with the aftermath of Covid 19 that affected floriculture and the world economies at large, new entrepreneurs continues to venture into flower farming. This is to tap into the exponential demand for flowers in the European market as well as the Asian market that is opening up in leap and bounds.

One of the new farms tapping into this market is Kikwetu Flowers, which is nestled below the slopes of Mt Kenya, near Timau in Meru County, established in July 2019. Kikwetu is a Swahili word which means ‘our culture, our style’. It is a flower farm that stands out for its beauty, and for the quality that it produces with impressive efficiency.

The farm stands high at 2,400m above sea level making it ideal for the production of premium quality roses. Currently, the farm has 5 hectares under production growing the Ever Red, a T-hybrid red variety, Athena, a medium white variety and Revival a medium pink variety. “We plan to introduce more varieties in due course; a few new greenhouses are under construction where we will plant yellow, orange, and other colors. In choosing the varieties, we have considered both the market demand and our micro climate,” Rathan Kedambadi the General Manager opines, responding as to how they chose their varieties.

Carol Mwaura of Hortfresh Journal receiving a bouquet of Flowers from Mr. Mathia Yinda ; Director kikwetu Flowers

The beauty of rose farming in Kenya according to Rathan, is that one can never go wrong. With good management, quality produce and consistency, market is always guaranteed. “Everything starts and ends with the management. If you have a management that understands the business and are passionate about it, there is nothing the company cannot overcome. The farms that have received a beating up to the state of closure, the management had a bigger hand. Strategies and deliberate plans are the ones that breathe new life to business,” says Rathan.

The payoff for high altitude areas is in producing premium roses, T-hybrid roses. For farms like Kikwetu, they produce big heads and longer stem roses, which production per square meter are less as compared to lower altitude areas, but earns handsomely in the market, as compared to low altitude areas, whose catch point is in high numbers produced per square meter.

“We sell our flowers through the direct market which has many customers. The trick with the direct market is to have quality flowers which the clients demand, the prices are good as compared to the auction prices which usually keep on fluctuating now and then; tend to be good during Valentines, Mother’s Day and other international seasons,” he states.

Statistics from global markets reveals a shift with many growers now preferring direct markets as opposed to the traditional auctions, as it shields them from price fluctuations while allowing them to secure guaranteed markets. While this has meant change of model in order to grow varieties dictated by buyers, growers have warmed up to the idea due to the returns on investment.

Kikwetu Flowers goes an extra mile to ensure their clients receive the best flowers in terms of quality. This is dear to their heart, even if it means spending more. They combine old and advanced technologies to give their flowers that top quality. For instance, they practice organic farming, use vermiculture solution to feed their roses, beside other biological solutions.
According to Kikwetu’s management, their next expansion phase is going to be dictated by the market. “Currently, there is a demand in the market not to produce roses alone but also summer flowers as well as spray roses. We want to make sure that our customers are fully satisfied when they buy roses from us, and that they don’t need to go sourcing for other varieties,” said Mathia Yinda, one of the farm director.

“Our workers are the engine that oils our operations. We have about 150 dedicated workers who have a lot of experience having worked in the flower sector for a long time. We also offer internship program to college graduates in order to sharpen their practical skills,” says Yinda.

The entire community around the farm is involved in one way or another and a culture of working together with people from other far off communities is slowly developing making Kikwetu a unique blend of cultures. Right from the beginning, they understood the special needs of the community and moved in to partner with them to improve the shared access road and made it an all-weather road. The farm also provides free clean drinking water to the community.

Kikwetu Flowers, managing director, Lucy Wambui Yinda, has a demonstrated a remarkable history of working in the cut flower industry as well as in management of a non-profit organization such as Wema Centre Trust, a non-governmental charitable child’s protection centers – one in Bamburi-Utange and one in Thika.

As days ahead look rosy, Kikwetu Flowers anticipates good tidings, with the future of flower farming in Kenya set to bloom in the coming decade as witnessed with increased expansions and setting up of new farms across the country.

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