Kenya’s economy largely relies on the agriculture sector. Horticulture sub-sector is one of the top foreign exchange earners for the country generating approximately US $ 1 billion annually. In 2016, the horticulture sub-sector contributed about 1.6% to the national GDP while 1.1% was from the flower industry. It has grown in significance to a vibrant flower industry worldwide.
It has recorded growth in volume and value of cut flowers exported every year from 10,946 tons in 1988 compared to 86,480 tons in 2006, 120,220 tons in 2010, 136,601 tons in 2014, 133,658 in 2016 and 159, 961 tons in 2017. According to Horticultural Crop Directorate (HCD) in 2017, the floriculture industry earned Kenya Shillings 82.25 billion.
Kenya is the lead exporter of rose cut flowers to the European Union (EU) with a market share of 38%. Approximately 50% of exported flowers are sold through the Dutch Auctions, although direct sales are growing. In the United Kingdom, supermarkets are the main outlets. Over 25% of exported flowers are delivered directly to these multiples, providing an opportunity for value addition at source through sleeving, labelling and bouquet production. Kenya flowers are sold in more than 60 countries.
It is estimated that in Kenya, over 500,000 people, including over 100,000 flower farm employees depend on the floriculture industry impacting over 2 million livelihoods.
The main production areas are around Lake Naivasha, Mt. Kenya, Nairobi, Thika, Kiambu, Athi River, Kitale, Nakuru, Kericho, Nyandarua, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Eastern Kenya.
The main cut flowers grown in Kenya are roses, carnations, and Alstromeria. Other flowers cultivated include, Gypsophilla, Lilies Eryngiums, arabicum, hypericum, Statice, a range of summer flowers amongst many others.
The industry continues to attract investors due to solid infrastructure, favourable climate, global-positioning of Kenya and a productive workforce. It comprises large, medium and small scale producers who have attained high management standards and have invested heavily in value addition through adoption of modern technology in production, precision farming and marketing.
The farmers utilize technologies some of which includes drip irrigation, fertigation systems, greenhouse ventilation systems, net shading, pre-cooling, cold storage facilities, grading, bouqueting , fertilizer recycling systems to prevent wastage, wetlands for waste water treatment, artificial lighting to increase day length, grading/packaging sheds, and refrigerated trucks.
On the global front, a growth of 5% is anticipated every year over the next five years. To be a part of this opportunity, Kenya is going to continue investing and expansion in growth rate than previous years.
Going forward, the industry will continue benchmarking itself against other producer countries. Information thus gathered will be useful in formulating strategies, to capture prospects of expansion in current and emerging markets.