by Ronald Njoroge
and Wang Xiaopeng NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya’s flower industry has tapped into the growing Chinese
market in order to boost earnings of the sector, as part of the
country’s effort to diversify its markets of exporting.
The expanding Chinese economy has created demand for high
quality flowers, Kenya Flower Council (KFC) CEO Jane Ngige told
Xinhua in an interviews before and during the two-day Naivasha
Horticultural Fair, one of the biggest events of the kind in
Africa, which concluded on Saturday.
"Chinese consumers are willing to pay a premium price for
high quality flowers. We therefore want to tap into the high
value flower segment of Chinese market in order enhance our
farmers earnings," Ngige said, adding that to meet the demand,
the industry is seeking to move up the flower value chain amid
rising costs of production.
Most of Kenyan flower exports reach the Asian nation via the
Netherlands-based flower auctions, said Ngige, stressing that a
number of Kenyan flower firms do send flowers directly to China
but in limited quantities.
Kevin Liu is one of a few Chinese businessmen who specializes
in exporting Kenyan flowers to China directly.
He told Xinhua in an interview at the fair on Friday that his
company, Kevin International, exported only 40 tonnes of flowers
to China in 2015 when the business was initiated. In the
following year, the sales had increased to 320 tonnes, most of
which were roses.
Accoring to Liu, the future for Kenyan flowers in China is
bright. Ngige also has confidence.
She said the Kenyan flowers can be competitive in the Chinese
market due to factors including the presence of direct air links
between the two countries, though logistics remains a challenge
for businesses due to the need to balance inward and outward
"The flower sector is holding discussions with airlines to
come up with best arrangement that will ensure maximum revenue,"
Kenya flower industry is producing a relatively stable volume
in recent years.
Last year, the East African nation exported approximately
133,000 tonnes of flowers, the bulk of which was absorbed by the
European Union member states, according to the website of the
KFC, which did not provide figures on export to each markets.
According to the ministry of agriculture, the flower sector
earned Kenya about 690 million U.S. dollars in 2016, making it
one of the leading sources of foreign exchange.
"Kenya produces world class flowers that compete globally due
to its geographic location along the equator that has sunshine
throughout the year as well as favorable soils," she said.
"In addition, Kenya’s location allows it to export flowers
seamlessly to all regions of the world," the KFC CEO said.
Kenya is among four countries in the world that can produce
high quality roses.
Ngige added that increased sales to China will help the
industry diversify its export markets.
"Currently the industry is very vulnerable as most of its
produce is sold to a single economic bloc," she added.
Ngige said that there is urgent need for Kenya to find new
markets due to increasing competition in the flower business,
noting that Kenya’s success in the flower industry has motivated
other African nations to enter into the sector.
"In the past decade, we have seen the emergence of Ethiopia,
Rwanda and Tanzania as flower exporters," she said.