Horticulture exports defy Covid-19 to increase 8.6pc in ten months


A worker at a farm in Naivasha prepares flowers for export. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Earnings from horticulture in the first 10 months of the year have defied the Covid-19 economic fallout to rise 8.6 percent to Sh126 billion compared to a similar period year earlier.

The earnings were boosted by high demand of fruits as Europe, Kenya’s major market for fresh produce, saw most of the countries open up following the easing of restrictions that had been occasioned by Covid-19.

However, the second wave of the Covid-19 in Europe is creating uncertainty in the coming days with the current high season, which started in October, witnessing an average demand.

Fruits export earnings rose to Sh17 billion from Sh11 billion while flowers, which normally account for the largest portion of the income from horticulture exports, raked in Sh89.6 billion — an improvement from Sh83.7 previously.

Horticulture is a major foreign exchange earner alongside tea, remittances from Kenyans living abroad and tourism.

Avocado boosted fruit sales but its harvest season has come to an end with the closure of export for the two main export varieties.

Vegetable earnings fell to Sh19 billion from Sh21 billion.

“The fruit sub-sector has been expanding and growing owing to exports of avocado and high demand for the produce in the world market,” said Benjamin Tito, head of Horticulture Directorate.

Enhanced volumes of avocado boosted the high income from fruits.

Cancellation of orders hit flower exports following the corona pandemic that led to the closure of the Amsterdam auction, leaving growers with an option of direct sales.

The flower market, however, is slowly picking up, following the onset of high season in October. However, the stakeholders are worried that the second wave of Covid-19 will impact negatively on the exports.

The impressive performance in the review period was against a backdrop of a decline in volumes, which was six per cent short of the previous season.

Industry data from the directorate indicates that the volumes dropped to 263 million kilogrammes in the review period from 279 million.