Roses, Aster callistephus, alstromeria, hypericum, gyspophilia, arabicum and goblin are some of the flowers that were on display this week at the International Floriculture Trade Exhibition (Iftex) held in Nairobi this week.
The flowers brightened the Oshwal Centre, the venue of the exhibition, with the exhibitors and other attendees happy to return to the venue for the first time in three years following the Covid-19 disruption.
The participants came from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South America to meet buyers from key markets in Europe, Asia and the US.
Many were catching up for the first time after more than three years. And the various colours and shapes of roses mixed with other flower varieties created just the perfect environment that blended with smiles and radiance from everyone at the event.
Iftex organiser, Dick van Raamsdonk, said the event affirmed Kenya’s position as one of the top flower producers.
The biggest highlight of the event is that Kenya signed a framework of cooperation with The Netherlands to create a cold chain infrastructure that will see flowers transported by the sea to the global market as a solution to the perennial shortage of cargo space in flights and the high cost that comes with it.
Kenya will, therefore, join the list of countries that transport flowers by sea, a move that is seen as a game-changer in the floriculture sector.
“Before the pandemic, transporting a kilo of flowers cost $2.4 (Sh279). Currently, it is $5.6. We have to look for alternatives,” said Clement Tulezi, the CEO Kenya Flowers Council (KFC).
Kenya is expected to ship 15 – 20 containers of flowers every week, said the KFC chief.
Columbia, Netherlands, Israel and South Africa are some of the countries using ships to ferry flowers, a move that has helped to cut carbon emission.
“During COP26, Kenya pledged to address climate change, thus, sea transport will help us cut down on carbon emission by almost 90 per cent,” Tulezi explained.
Maarten Brouwer, the Dutch ambassador in Kenya, said development of a cold chain facility for flower transport by sea will position the port of Mombasa as a global sea business trade hub. With Jomo Kenyatta International Airport being an aviation hub, Kenya is thus developing into an international logistics and distribution centre, making it a key player in world business.
Joshua Kulei, the director of Sian Flowers, one of the firms that has used sea transport, said it takes 24 – 28 days for the produce to reach intended markets from Kenya, as he cited unpredictable schedules and congestion as some of the challenges likely to be expected.
Agriculture Sector Network (Asnet) chairman and Elgon Kenya managing director Bimal Kantaria lauded the move to ship flowers by sea, noting it would help the industry cut high costs that is grappling with.
The escalating costs have threatened production and marketing of produce, added Kantaria, as he also urged the government to work on reducing or removing taxes on farm inputs to lessen the burden for producers.
“Production costs have shot up while yield prices remain constant. Operations are hard,” said Peter Githua, Primarosa operations manager.
The Ol Joro Orok based farm grows flowers on 60ha, exporting to the Middle East countries, Canada, Australia, Germany and Russia.
Disha Copreaux, the Red Lands Roses CEO, said the sector is currently grappling with a high number of levies. The Ruiru farm has employed 576 workers, and Disha said with the high production expenses, it is struggling to recover from post Covid effects.
Additional information, Nelson Maina