Flower farmers fret over heavy rains

Kenya’s flower sector is bracing for tough times as heavy rains continue pounding most parts of the country.

The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) says the current weather may affect the country’s top foreign exchange earner especially as the February Valentine’s day approaches.

KFC chief executive Jane Ngige said the ongoing rains were likely to dampen fortunes from flower exports that had begun blooming going by last year’s performance.
The sector earned Sh56 billion in foreign exchange compared to Sh45 billion the previous year.

Ms Ngige expressed fears that flowers transportation would also be affected as it has happened in the past when roads in Naivasha’s major growing areas were cut off from the main highway.

“Greenhouses structures are also expected to be hard hit by strong winds causing an increase in production costs,” said Ms Ngige, in a press statement.

Flower farms have expressed fear that their crop may be affected by diseases such as downy mildew, powdery mildew and botrytis, which thrive in cold-humid conditions.

State of emergency

“Cold, cloudy and wet weather not only increases diseases and pests, but also leads to chilling growth, delaying production cycles,” said Oserian Development Company administration manager Kirimi Mpungu.

He described the current weather conditions as a state of emergency which require high level of alertness.

Some flower farmers have been forced to stock up chemicals and spraying equipment to fight against effects of the cold and humid weather conditions.

“With El Nino, everyone will be spraying, creating the possibility of chemicals going out of stock,’ said Ananth Kumar, marketing manager at Kajiado-based PJ Dave Flowers.

READ: Flower farms shifting base to Ethiopia over taxes

Preparations for Valentine’s Day start 60-70 days before the actual day, but the current weather may interfere with production, creating a shortage.

According to Mpungu, Valentine’s Day is the single most important for this industry with some firms making their annual profits from this day alone.

He said the measures being taken to mitigate effects of El Nino would cause a rise in production cost, thus affecting profitability.