FAQs on Kenya’s Floricultural Exports

The country continues to play a significant role in the international trade, exporting to the world market over 35% of cut flowers and ornamentals, while earning the country great revenue in foreign exchange. Below are the reasons behind the success of the floriculture industry.

1. Why is Kenya a top producer and exporter of flowers?

Kenya is a top producer and exporter of cut-flowers and ornamentals owing to the fact that the country has got an ideal climate for producing a wide range of top quality flowers in different parts of the country all year round. With the equator cutting across the country, the light levels at the equator are maximized while high altitude keeps temperatures from exceeding optimum levels for temperate crops. Some tropical crops can also be grown at low altitudes e.g. Anthurium.

Having the sun directly overhead produces straight stems naturally. The country is also endowed with plenty of good quality water for production, and highly educated, trained and hardworking work force at competitive wage levels. The country’s JKIA is a major regional hub and is very well served by major airlines and charter operators giving easy airfreight access to the European markets and from there to the rest of the world, compared to other competing countries.

The country has a dynamic small holder production base for certain crops which are labour intensive, with a massive investment by both local and overseas investors in high tech projects with emphasis on varieties and adding value coupled with good marketing by the growers.

2. What is the current value of exports?

The total declared FOB value of flower exports in 2013 was Kshs 46.5 billion with export volumes of 124,858 tonnes. Horticultural exports are Kenya’s biggest export earnings after tourism. The economic stability of the country is therefore dependent on the continued success of the industry.
Kenya’s economy largely relies on the agriculture sector which contributes 25.3% of GDP. 2.63% of the national GDP is from the horticulture sub-sector while 1.29% is from the flower industry.
Horticulture is one of the top foreign exchange earners for the country generating approximately US$ 1 billion annually.

3. What are the main products?

Although the main flower under production are roses, the country produces a diverse range of other high quality cut flowers and ornamentals, including summer flowers used as fillers mixed with other flowers and greenery in bouquets.

4. Which are the most important destinations?

The biggest percentage of exports are to the EU, which is believed to consume over 50% of the world flowers. The major markets for the flowers are to the Netherlands, UK, Germany, France, and other EU countries. With market diversifications, Russia , USA, Japan and Dubai are coming up quite fast.

5. What is the level of investment?

There are currently over 300 active exporters of floricultural products to the EU, with total capital investment being more than $800 million (€600 million). The area under commercial floriculture is more than 2,500 hectares. The government provides a high level of supporting infrastructure including a port, airports, roads, telecommunication etc.

6. How much employment is generated by the industry?

The number of direct employees in the export industry is estimated to be over 90,000, while indirect employees in affiliated activities on service provision, and inputs etc are approximately 2 million people who derive a livelihood from the export industry. If each has four dependants, the total beneficiaries are 4.8 million people or 14% of the population.

7. What steps have been taken to comply with new market standards?

Majority of all producers are compliant with main trade and statutory environmental, health & safety, traceability and social standards e.g. Kenya Flower Council Code of Practice, GlobalGAP, MPS, ETI, Fair Trade, BRC etc. Kenya has been a pioneer in accreditation to EurepGAP, now GlobalGAP, where Kenya Flower Council was the first national scheme world wide to be accredited to GlobaGAP in 2005.

The Council is accredited to carry out farm audits against the Kenya Standard for Flowers and Ornamentals (KS1758), on behalf of Kenya Bureau of Standards.

The Council is also a fully fledged Products Certification Body by the South Africa National Accreditation Services (SANAS).

8. Is horticulture having a negative effect on the environment?

Kenya has more protected conservation areas than most African countries and is providing unique wildlife and eco-friendly holidays to record numbers of tourists. High altitude growing at equatorial latitudes produces quality flowers without fossil fuels (heating and lighting) – Kenyan produce is “grown under the sun”. There is an ongoing project to participate in the formulation of national environmental standards as pertains the industry to ensure that not only are growers part of the decision makers, but that they also comply with national as they strive to meet international standards.
Never the less, Kenyan growers are actively seeking cleaner technologies by using geothermal and solar techniques for power generation, while water and organic matter are recycled by most farms. Studies carried out show relatively low carbon footprints, estimated at 1 ton per capita compared to the developed world, where levels of up to 40 tons per capita have been cited.

9. What is the level of research and training?

Top quality research on new varieties and products is carried out continuously by the private sector with public sector support. Research to reduce freight costs is a priority, for example by using more efficient packaging by air and by developing sea freight systems for many products. More than 120 graduate horticulturalists are produced each year by four universities and a new vocational training institute is in the pipeline.

10. Why is Kenya a top producer and exporter of flowers?

Kenya is a top producer and exporter of cutflowers and ornamentals owing to the fact that the country has got an ideal climate for producing a wide range of top quality flowers in different parts of the country all year round. With the equator cutting across the country, the light levels at the equator are maximised while high altitude keeps temperatures from exceeding optimum levels for temperate crops.

11. Where, how big, how developed is Kenya?

A republic since 1963, Kenya has a land area of 569,259 square kilometres (about as big as Germany), straddles the equator and is on the eastern seaboard of Africa. The Great Rift Valley with its lakes and volcanoes bisects the country north to south. The capital City is Nairobi and has a major port in Mombasa. The population is 40 million with GDP per capita of $514 (€367).

12. Impact of post-election crisis 2008 on the industry?

The flower sector like most other industries in Kenya, has experienced major challenges during this difficult time for the country. Fracas following announcement of polls elections caught growers totally unawares. From estimates on the ground the, the impact of some 5-7 days of interrupted business as a result of blockaded roads and threats of violence to drivers led to an estimated loss of approximately Ksh 1 billion. Affected areas included Eldoret, Kericho, Mt. Elgon, Kitale and Molo.

However, farms continued with production throughout the country, even in the mentioned areas, without too much disruption until the period of 27th – 30th January, when trouble erupted in Naivasha. Workers going to work were attacked by rowdy youths, in the name of avenging violence meted on certain tribes in parts of the country. Fortunately, the situation has returned to near normal with 80- 90% staff reporting to work during normal hours. Most of affected farms were where workers are not housed by companies, in which case management provided ample security.

Information on Naivasha region

1. How many hectares of roses is it around Lake Naivasha?

Estimated to be about 1200 ha. Roses account for roughly about 70% (840 ha.) of the flowers grown in Naivasha

2. The percentage of certified production area around Lake Naivasha

Those certified by KFC are about 53.2% of the total hectares in Naivasha which is 638.49 ha

3. How many hectares of greenhouses collect rain water on the roofs?

All farms growing their flowers in green houses harvest rainwater which is collected in the reservoirs.

4. The percentage of hectares with re-circulation of irrigation systems?

Farms recycling water are mostly those who grow under hydroponics that is, 70% of the 1200ha.

5. The percentage of hectares with drip irrigation systems?

All greenhouses (1200 ha) use drip. 70 percent grow under hydroponics. Growing on soil is being phased out as its more water use inefficient. Outdoor growing is a mixture of drip and overhead irrigation

6. The estimated amount of water per square meter rose production?
55 cubic metres per ha Per day

7. Number of people directly employed by the floriculture industry in Kenya?

In Naivasha about 30,000 livelihoods are directly employed in the Flower industry. On average of 8 people rely on one single job in Kenya. This implies about 240,000 people indirectly rely on employment in the farms around Naivasha.

8. Number of people indirectly depending from the floriculture industry in Kenya?

Floriculture industry in Kenya employs about 90,000 directly and about 500,000 livelihoods depend indirectly on the industry.

9. Annual amount of rain a normal year in mm per square meter?
On average Naivasha receives 700mm/annum

10. The amount of rain in mm per square meter the dry year of 2009?

11. The amount of rain in mm per square meter the rainy year of 2010?
971.3 mm/m2

Additional info

Lake Naivasha is one of Kenya’s most valuable freshwater resources, known for its crystal clear waters and extremely rich biodiversity, with over 150 wetland species and 350 others recorded around the lake. Today lake levels have improved and also rush growth of papyrus after the rains.

Through the Lake Naivasha Growers Group, growers have relentlessly remained at the forefront of stewardship of the Lake Naivasha, by initiating effective measures on the usage of available water equitably and responsibly to ensure that all water sources, including the Lake are used in a manner that minimizes wastage of water as well as ensuring the most efficient use. This is done by way of use of hydroponic techology in feeding the flowers, compared to other methods such as overhead irrigation ensuring that each crop is given only the amount of water it needs, thus avoiding wastage.

In addition, approval for abstracting and use of water is given by Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) where water usage by growers is monitored. All abstarations are metered, enabling growers to monitor usage at every point . We wish to reiterate our commitment to ensuring the sustainable use and protection of Lake Naivasha and its catchment area.

According to a survey report by Lake Naivasha Water Resource Users Association LANAWRUA), the actual volume of the water abstracted is 82% of the volume allowed where by 98% of the of the volumes are under permits.

Some growers monitor the quality of water from the lake ,Lake levels and physical parameters such as pH and EC where water samples are collected regularly and sent for Microbial and full chemical/mineral analyses to Government accredited laboratories every 3 months and results are sent to various regulatory agencies and shared with local research institutions.

Farms that have put in place strict measures to ensure the prevention of pollution of the environment where waste water is treated before disposal through acceptable means as outlined in the Environment Management and Coordination Act (EMCA99) and monitored by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

They work closely with government agencies dealing with environmental issues, including water use. For example WRMA, KMFRI (Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute), the Ministry of Water, LNGG ( Lake Naivasha Growers Group), LNRA (Lake Naivasha Riparian Association) and LANAWRUA ( Lake Naivasha Water Resource Users Association).

Rehabilitation and restoration of the highland areas that form the L. Naivasha catchment is a priority with farms donating tree seedlings annually to the local community to support catchment rehabilitation efforts.

– Employees are provided with protective clothing and also provided trainings where the package caters for safe use of chemicals, conservation of the environment, safety in work place, first aid, and other disciplines related to their operations.w3

– It is important to note that salaries under the KFC code are generally 15 per cent higher than those paid in other productive sectors for unskilled workers not to mention other benefits accrued from Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes such as education, water, health for workers and communities.

– Farms have wetlands that take care of all the technical water waste.

– In addition to KFC certification, growers are also certified by MPS, FairTrade, Globalgap through the KFC certification scheme, FLO, Tesco among others.