The domestic horticulture sector registered good performance in 2018 with the first 10-month earnings surpassing full-year results of the previous three years.
Latest industry performance data shows Kenya earned Sh127 billion in 10 months to October against full earnings for 2017 of Sh115 billion, 2016 (Sh101 billion) and Sh90 billion in 2015.
Stakeholders have attributed enhanced earnings to high standards of Kenya flowers, which has seen the demand go up in the world market.
“The quality of our flowers have gone up and improved standards have seen buyers jostle for our produce, hence improving the earnings,” says Jane Ngigi, chief executive officer Kenya Horticulture Council.
Ms Ngigi also pointed out that most flower firms in the country have diversified from roses to other varieties such as summer and outdoor flowers.
She said that Kenya Flower Council (KFC) standards was benchmarked with other international standards in 2016 and it emerged as one of the most robust in the world, creating more confidence in the local exports.
The sector recorded good performance in 2018 despite challenges arising from fertiliser in the last quarter period. The commodity supply was constrained by stringent checks at the ports.
Flowers had the lion's share of the horticulture earnings, bringing in Sh93 billion of the total industry revenue in 2018, followed by vegetables at Sh22 billion and fruits coming third at Sh11 billion.
The sector is still waiting to reap the benefits of direct flight to New York, by capitalising on the ready US market. Kenya Airways, which started flying to the US last year in October, is yet to launch the cargo flight on the route.
Kenya’s hybrid and spray roses do not compete with the large, long-stem roses from Ecuador and Columbia and this will give Kenya an edge in the US market.
Kenyan flowers have no market access challenges into the US where they are quota and duty free. In addition, there are no requirements for Pest Risk Analysis (PRA)
The direct flight, noted the stakeholders, will see expansion on other products such as vegetables, baby carrots, baby corn, French beans and snap peas, which have already undergone PRA and have been cleared for entry into the world’s biggest market.