Flowers--Sweet smell of success: Kenya's flower exports have yet again broken records but the industry is facing serious challenges. Stephen Williams attended the annual Kenya Flower Day in London recently.

Author:Williams, Stephen
Position:KENYA
 
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Exports of cut flowers from Kenya have again reached record levels with 2004 results posting a 44.7% increase over the previous year in volume terms. Actual export value rose by some 13.5% over the same period, making Kenya's horticulture sector the country's second largest foreign exchange earner, after tea, with more than $250m.

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Announcing these results in London at the annual Kenya Flower Day, Erastus Mureithi, chairman of the Kenya Flower Council reported that Kenya exported over 88 tons of flowers last year, representing more than a doubling of exports in the past three years since 2001.

The Kenya Flower Council is a voluntary association that currently has a membership of 45 independent grower and export companies that accounts for around 70% of Kenya's exports of cut flowers.

Speaking at the Kenya Flower Day, Kenya's High Commissioner to the UK, Joseph Muchemi, pointed out that British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa report initiative "had stressed the need for success stories from Africa be highlighted as part of better balanced reporting of Africa, and one of the success stories mentioned in the report is the Kenya flower industry".

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Echoing the High Commissioner's words, Mureithi said that Kenya's flower industry is an African success story and an example of how trade rather than aid can generate business and jobs in a country that encourages private sector initiative.

Kenya's flower industry employs approximately 100,000 workers people directly and perhaps as many as 1.5m indirectly. Horticulture, together with economic sectors such as textiles and tourism, is widely considered to offer one of Kenya's most promising opportunities for economic growth and job creation, a stated target of the present government.

Further developing the sector is particularly attractive as the flower industry is rurally based and helps to alleviate urban drift, while contributing substantially to poverty alleviation in the countryside.

Today, Kenya is the largest exporter of cut flowers to the EU markets, representing 25% of the EU's imports and having an export value of $254m.

The flowers are cut, packaged and delivered to both the Dutch flower auction market and major European supermarkets within 36 hours. The Dutch flower auctions are predominant because so much produce is re-exported to the US and Japan.

Mureithi reported that in 2004, 65% of cut flower exports went to the Dutch flower...

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