Soko Maua blooms on consumers’ spending power

Behind a growing local market for flowers is a novel project launched five years ago to encourage local consumption that has now more than doubled, in what industry players attribute to a growing middle class and heightened awareness, a move that has now cushioning the country from the volatile traditional markets.

Dubbed Soko Maua, the initiative by the Kenya Flower Council is geared towards creating market linkages between flower growers especially small holder ones and local florists through floral exhibitions in order to increase demand for flowers in the local market.

Industry players now say the move has increased consumption of flowers in the local market to include homes and various functions from the traditional events like Valentines day when flowers would be consumed. “We are now seeing even seeing supermarkets stock the flowers, while even families buy flowers on daily basis for their homes, something that we hadnt seen before. This is the way to go,”said Daniel Kimakia the owner of Hamsa Florist Company.

The project's aim has been to grow the local consumption from 5 percent to 15 percent “to add value to main flowers like roses through bouquets and creates wealth and employment locally,”according to KFC’s chief executive officer Jane Ngige.

The push to encourage local consumption of flowers is also informed by the fact that flower vendors play a considerable role in the distribution and sale of Kenyan flowers. Moreover, the local market is a sustainable avenue for the small-scale growers, as it enables the vendors meet their daily needs.

Currently, Kenya is the lead exporter of flowers to the European Union (EU) with a market share of over 35 per cent, with approximately 65 per cent of exported flowers being sold through the Dutch auctions.
According to statistics from the KFC, in 2010, about 113 million stems were exported from Kenya, with a value of about US $ 39.9 million. However this has declined in recent years following a financial meltdown in European countries. The Flower Council has therefore been courting local initiatives to hedge the country from external shocks that have been responsible for dwindling returns from the promising sector.

The Soko Maua has also heightened awareness among small holder farmers to increase acreage under flower farming with a view to diversify market options. Already plans are underway to build a cold storage room in Nairobi for the small holder farmers and market Nairobi as the capital of flower growing region.