Horticulture -- the intensive cultivation of vegetables, fruits and flowers for sale -- is currently the fastest growing agricultural subsector in Kenya and ranked third after tourism and tea, in foreign exchange earnings.
In 2016, horticulture earnings stood at a record high of Sh101.5 billion, contributing 1.44 per cent of the country’s GDP.
The flower sector contributed Sh70.8 billion the same year, accounting for 70 per cent of earnings from the horticultural sector.
The subsector is estimated to have employed more than two million Kenyans as at 2014, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows.
Characterised by highly capital intensive methods of production, horticulture is mainly practiced close to urban areas because of the highly perishable nature of the produce.
The activity is mainly export-oriented, with advanced methods being employed to increase productivity.
Major areas in Kenya where horticulture is practiced include around Lake Naivasha where companies such as Oserian handle flower plantations. Kabazi Canners company in Bahati, Nakuru County deals in vegetables and fruits mainly for export.
The Delmonte Company in Thika produces and processes fruits and juices for domestic and export markets -- mainly to the European market.
The main flowers exported are roses and orchids whereas the main fruits are lemons, grapes, oranges and pineapples. Spinach, cabbages, broccoli and kales are some of the vegetables that are grown.
The main European market for Kenya’s horticultural products include the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium and France.
The horticulture industry in Kenya has suffered main challenges including improper marketing structures, muddy roads and lack of adequate refrigeration facilities to help increase the the shelf life of the produce.
Stiff completion from countries like Israel have led to fluctuations in demand for Kenya’s horticultural products thus variations in income from horticulture.