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Exporters shake off fertiliser delays to meet flower demand

Maridadi Flowers
Workers prepare roses for export to the European market at the Maridadi Flowers warehouse in Naivasha. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenyan flower companies are meeting the current high demand for flowers despite experiencing fertiliser delays last year.

The first quarter of every year is the peak season for flowers in Europe and Kenyan exporters, the biggest supplies to the region, pull out all stops to meet the demand.

There were fears that this year the demand may outstrip supply due to the delays in releasing fertiliser at the port. The industry has, however, emerged unscathed with exporters meeting Europe’s demand.

The sector also performed well last year. The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) said despite challenges arising from fertiliser delays, the sector posted good performance in 2018. Flowers recorded the highest earnings at Sh93 billion of the total horticulture industry revenue last year, followed by vegetables at Sh22 billion then fruits at Sh11 billion.

Last year, the Kenya Bureau of Standards held 1.6 million tonnes of fertiliser at the Mombasa port as they waited to be inspected. Some 750,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser were also held up at the Elgon Kenya warehouse while 880,000 tonnes were stuck at a store in Yala.

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However, flower companies overcame the problem by buying larger quantities of fertiliser in the last quarter of last year, as traders and farmers prepared to meet the peak demand in the first quarter of this year.

The problem of fertiliser seems far from over with the government saying last week that due to procurement errors from the contracted firms, it will not import the input this year. This has forced farmers to buy it from the open market, a move that has pushed up prices from Sh1,200 for a 50kg bag to Sh3,000 .

"The National Cereals Produce Board typically helps to maintain low fertiliser prices through subsidy. But now that there will be no cheap fertiliser, the prices are likely to shoot up during the planting season," said Kipkorir Menjo, the director of the Kenya Farmers Association in a press conference in Eldoret.

Despite these challenges, prospects look rosy for the sector with companies such as Primarosa Flowers Limited reporting an increase in production in 2018 and expect better yield this year despite the challenges.

“Whilst this year’s market was extremely challenging owing to fertiliser issues at the port, production still managed to increase by 20 per cent in comparison to 2017. Having year-round customers in our portfolio always facilitate good business,” said Bobby Kamani, Managing Director, Primarosa Flowers Limited.

“During the off-peak season we export close to 8 million roses a month around the globe mainly to Continental Europe.”

Primarosa flowers limited deals in the production of a variety of roses such as Furiosa, Oriole, Glow, Andalusia and Athena among other roses.

The rose is one of the most popular flowers on Valentine’s Day celebrated on February 14, and Kenya is expected to reap big from its exports to Europe.

“We generally deal in freight on board (FOB) basis, which enables us to deliver the roses at the airport and freight is taken care of by the client. This season we have had to increase the number of flights on which our roses are transported due to the high demand,” said Mr Kamani.

“We export our products globally with Continental Europe being at the forefront, closely followed by the Asia Pacific. Mainland China seems to have a growing demand for flowers from Kenya.”

For Oserian flower farm, the company has adopted an ingenious strategy to meet growing demand. The company utilises integrated pest management system and hydroponics to reduce water as well as fertiliser consumption.

“In an increasingly competitive and dynamic market our cut flowers have excited markets and positioned us as frontrunners in sustainable flower production,” said Oserian Flower Farm.

- African Laughter

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