Kenya farmers to diversify flower exports to Asia and Far East region

Over 300 exhibitors and 5,000 flower growers, breeders and buyers are in Nairobi for the annual International Flower Trade Expo that started on Wednesday.

The expo which is in its sixth year is timely for Kenya coming at a time when the country is set to introduce direct flights to the US after the classification of Kenya’s premier airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Category A status.

Speaking on Thursday during the opening of the exhibition, Kenya Flower Council CEO, Jane Ngige said Kenya will start exporting flowers to USA once the direct flights start to reduce time on the lengthy journey between the two nations.

For the sixth year in a row, Kenya’s flowers have been a sensation in the US but until the categorization, it has been costly and lengthy to ship the produce to the world’s biggest market after the European Union.

Kenya received a safety certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in February 2017 allowing airlines to apply for non-stop flights to USA airports. Kenya exports 40 percent of the cut flower to European markets.

Market diversification, she stated will lead to more production over and above retaining traditional market mainly the EU.

The CEO said the local flower farming community was targeting China and Australia in their new export diversification approach.

However, is still expensive for local flowers to access the China market compared to the other EU countries as it currently attracts four percent duty which is quite expensive, she said.

We are calling upon the government to reach out to the Chinese government so that we see how the duty can be removed. Flowers from Ethiopia access chain markets duty free and we need the same consideration, Ngige said.

Ngige noted that recently, the Kenya flower council members and traders visited China and exhibited flower products.

China is an exciting market and we are equally interested in deepening our foot prints in the larger Asian market.

The flower export diversification approach, she added, will also be implemented in other Asia and Far East countries. She said China produces long flowers but were interested in Kenyan roses.

Kenya also exports flowers to Japan which is a lucrative and solid market duty free.

Over the years as volumes of flower industry and market grows, regulators should give it ample time and called on the Kenya Plants Health Inspectorate Service to expand its operations by adopting a 24 hours’ work cycle.

They need to have ample time to issue certificates, inspect and verify destinations before goods leave airport as it is discomforting when one’s products have been duly inspected in a hurry, ends in one destination and paper work in another destination, she said.

Currently, KEPHIS issues 1000�Psyco-sanitary certificates daily to exporters of fresh produce.

The CEO called on breeders to continue developing new products apart from rose flowers to cope with new dynamics in the market.

KFC chairman, Richard Fox said farmers had a good arrangement with EU but the entry of new players, such as, China, Australia and Japan will lead to stiff competition.

We are ready to compete based on the fact we have quality flower. Why send our flowers through Amsterdam to China and yet we can do that directly, wondered Fox.

Kenya’s position and varying climatic conditions has enabled the country to grow flowers that can compete with those from countries such as Ethiopia, Ecuador and Colombia in the same horizon.

Source: Kenya News Agency