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China becomes attractive market for Kenyan flower farmers

20 February 2015, 10:24

Nakuru - China has become a new attractive market for Kenyan flower farmers exploiting diversified avenues for retailing their produce.

Kenya leads in the export of cut flowers to the European Union (EU) with a 38 percent share beating Colombia and Israel, according statistics from to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC).

But as many investors continue to take interest in flower farming, exploiting new markets with huge potential for a sustainable supply is becoming an inevitable aspect in the industry.

And China has turned out to be a potential destination for high value roses.

"We are focusing more on Asia and China in particular because the EU market has so many players and the rate of expansion in Kenya is higher than the growth of the EU market," said Pigeon Blooms Managing Director Eliud Njenga, whose farm exports roses to China.

"Penetrating into the Chinese market would neutralize monopolization of prices thus benefiting flower farmers in the country in the long-term," Njenga told Xinhua in an interview on Thursday in Naivasha, the country's flower capital.

Creating an enabling environment for direct flights between the two countries largely boosts exportation of flowers from Kenya to China as Njenga argues.

In 2013, Kenya Airways, the East African nation's carrier launched direct flights to China, a development, Njenga says would further enhance commercial relations between the two countries.

Also read: EU to lift export taxes on Kenyan flowers in time for Valentine's

"I believe the direct flights will play a key role in growing the business between Kenya and China," said Njenga.

Significantly, huge population in China and growing demand for quality roses provides Kenya with a viable customer base to capitalize on.

Overtime, the floriculture industry in the country currently worth more than 1 billion U.S. dollars has transformed with adventure of new technology and innovations of better performing flowers.

"The flower industry in Kenya is more than four decades and evolved over the years in the use of modern technology," said the Pigeon Blooms Managing Director.

Since Kenya has gained popularity in high quality flower farming, breeders in rose flowers have set base in the country with the aim of enhancing the sector's productivity.

Njenga said premiums roses exported to China are grown in high altitude parts of Kenya and whose high quality provides a competitive leverage in the Asian market.

"All major players in the industry in terms of buyers, suppliers of machinery, green houses, and irrigation equipment among others also have their base in Kenya. This has made it easier for growers to access respective services," said Njenga.

Kenya is famed for producing unique flowers, a factor attributed to its sustained market relations with the EU which puts great emphasis on quality production.

Despite the challenges of climatic changes, Kenya still holds a favorable environment for growing exceptional flowers as the industry stakeholder maintains.

Njenga said roses grown in the country have been proved to have the longest shelf life thus preserving their quality throughout the retailing period.

"Here in Kenya, flowers are also handled professionally after harvest. This has ensured their high quality," he said.

Even as Kenyan flower farmers seek to exploit a growing market in China, they face competition from others countries such as Colombia and Ecuador.

However, Njenga is convinced that the Kenyan flowers would be most preferred due to their fair retail price and long shelf life.

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- Xinhua


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