Kenya flower farmers are increasingly feeling the heat of exports markets rejecting their flowers with most of them arriving in export destinations spoilt. The situation is so dire that one company reported Sh50million loss last year after its entire flower consignment meant for export was destroyed due to spoilt flowers.
The situation is further exacerbated by warnings from some importing countries threatening to tap into the Ethiopian flower market. But while every care and detail has gone into ensuring that the standards of the Kenyan flowers meet internationally recommended standards, flower farmers, both small and large are still grappling with pests and diseases that are taking a toll on their businesses.
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.
One flower company in Thika for example had on three occasions had its entire flower consignment destroyed after thrip pests were discovered in some of the flowers. The company lost Sh50 million.
Barnabas Muoka a flower farmer who also sources for flowers from smallholder farmers for export has had to grapple with traces of thrips in some of the flowers he buy from farmers. When the pests were first discovered he lost three major clients in UK.
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.
The flower industry which is expected to bring the Kenyan economy $531 million in earnings this year, employs about 90,000 people directly and it is estimated that over 500,000 depend on this sector indirectly which also supports the livelihoods of over two million households according to industry data.
But hope springs eternal. Companies like Elgon Kenya, who supply 80 percent of Kenya’s flower industry with inputs have stepped up the war on pests and diseases with highly potent, fast responding and environmental friendly flower pest and disease solutions which have been tried and tested. In partnership with respected global brands, Elgon has taken the burden of identifying the most effective pest control weapon from the flower farmers.
Notable pest control products like Ringo L from Sumitomo, Nando from Nufarm, Siapton from Chemtura and Azaka from Cheminova all distributed by Elgon Kenya have one thing in common.
They are effective shortly after application thus providing quick knockdown. They have subdued major pests like aphids, thrips and white flies in flowers
Farmers are advised to always read the instructions in the label of the pesticides/insecticides for optimum results.