Flower companies embrace integrated pest management

Kenya flower companies are cutting down on expenses they use in pest control, while preserving the environment thanks to a new range of integrated pest management practices taking root in Kenya.

This comes in the wake of debate on responsible flower growing with buyers increasingly becoming sensitive about how flowers are grown and the amount of pesticides being applied on the flowers.

The increasing concern over pesticide use among European buyers has led to tightening of regulatory standards for environmental protection and worker safety.
It becomes complicated because flowers are among the most sensitive plants in case of a pest and disease attack. With their soft and velvety petals any infestation no matter how minor is reflected in the quality and shape of the flower which is the first point of eye contact for customers.

Nationally although Kenya is regarded as a leading flower exporter in the world, especially to the European market, recent market scare arising from high toxin content and pest residues in flowers has seen some markets angling for Ethiopian flowers. Recently, Ethiopia received a quality flower award from the EU that has seen it snatch Russia, Holland and UK markets from Kenya. It currently exports 22 types of quality flowers.

And with the enviable contribution of the flower industry to the national purse and to job creation, a disruption in the sector is cause for concern.

Over 94 per cent of the flowers exported from Kenya are destined for markets in the European Union. The largest exporter to the EU, Kenya commands about 38 per cent of that region's market share. Following rising criticism of environmental damage and operator health safety issues in floriculture, European retailers have recently developed an audit of Good Agricultural Practice in Ornamentals and Flower production-Eurep-Gap.

While Eurep-Gap is not a legal requirement for entry into the EU market, it is an essential part of the business relationship between suppliers and retailers, since it defines Good Agricultural Practice and reduces the likelihood of negative publicity regarding production methods of suppliers, which can seriously impact on sales.

But companies like Elgon Kenya have been a front runner in striking the right balance between chemical and biological pest control arsenals through its range of transformatory IPM methods.
In the flower industry where the company commands 80 percent dominance in supply of inputs, its tried and tested solutions are credited for being effective shortly after application thus providing quick knockdown. They have subdued major pests like aphids, thrips and white flies in flowers.

In partnership with respected IPM brands like London based Russells IPM Elgon Kenya sells IPM products like pheromone traps, sticky boards, rods and physical traps all meant to contain the voracious pests like aphids,white flies and thrips.

“The point is to not only deal with pests when the health of the plants or their aesthetic value is in jeopardy. The latter is obviously a somewhat subjective call, but we all need to realize that no matter what, we will have pests in our farms. How we deal with them is what will determine how much food we can put on our people's table,” said Nelson Maina Elgon Kenya head of communication.