Horticulture earnings rebound to 2-year high


Workers at a flower farm in Oserian, Naivasha. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Earnings from export of fresh fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers hit a two-year high in March due to a sharp rise in volumes of horticulture exports to key markets for the Kenyan produce.

Data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows earnings from horticulture exports hit Sh11.41 billion in March – the highest since April 2021 when the country earned Sh11.62 billion, being a key source of the nation’s foreign exchange reserves.

Growth in earnings was supported by a higher volume of exports, which grew by 5,562 tonnes during the period to 61,628 tonnes in March this year up from 56,066 tonnes in April 2021.

Earnings have increased for the five months to March in a row as export volumes grew incrementally during the period. Horticulture export earnings rose from Sh8.8 billion in November last year to Sh8.9 billion in December before jumping further to Sh9.9 billion and Sh11 billion in January and February respectively.

Volumes also rose sharply with exports of fresh vegetables nearly doubling to 27,797 tonnes in March from 14,887 tonnes in February while exports of fruits rose to 21,466 tonnes from 17,830 tonnes during the period.

However, volumes of cut flower exports dropped slightly to 12,365 tonnes in March down from 13,611 tonnes in February.

Kenya’s horticulture export earnings, however, fell last year driven by low prices of vegetables and flowers globally.

The Economic Survey 2023 released this month by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows horticulture export earnings dropped to Sh152.2 billion in 2022 from Sh165.6 billion in 2021.

“This is explained by low demand for cut flowers and vegetables in the international market during the year under review,” said the survey.

Demand for fresh vegetables has been rising in recent years amid growing clamor for organic foods, which has helped push Kenyan vegetables to global tables supplementing traditional exports such as coffee, tea, and flowers. Kenyan fresh vegetable exports include tomatoes, onions, carrots, French beans, cauliflowers, and fresh peas. Most of the cut flowers, fruits, and vegetables are exported to the UK and European Union (EU) countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, and France. The government is, however, eyeing more markets such as Far East Asia and the Arabian Gulf to cut reliance on the European market.

Horticulture earnings are projected to rise by Sh30 billion this year on the back of easing cost of living crisis in Europe, a strong euro and improved production locally.

Exporters in the industry project better prospects this year as most of the European economies stabilise following last year’s upheaval caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict that nearly paralysed global trade.

Horticulture earnings dipped by Sh12 billion last year, marking one of the sector’s worst performances in a decade. Returns from fresh produce dipped to Sh120 billion in 2022 from Sh132 billion previously.