Kenyan flower farmers are moving to exploit a huge market potential by increasing their flower exports to the United States. According to Kenya Flower Council chief executive officer Jane Ngige, Kenyan flower farmers are seeking ways to increase their exports to the US which have remained significantly low in the last two years.
“We’ve been exporting flowers to the US for a while now, but the quantities are not as significant as they should be,” Ms Ngige said.
She said part of the focus will be on increasing the production and export of big-headed roses to compete with Colombia that currently accounts for more than 80 per cent of flower exports to the US. The global flower industry is dominated by a few major countries including Holland, Colombia, Kenya and Ecuador; the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Holland and France take 73 per cent of the world’s cut flower imports.
Colombian flower farms are favoured by the Caribbean country’s mild climate, relatively low labour costs, suitable transportation, favourable economic environment and proximity to the US to grow the American consumer market into its leading importer.
The Kenya Flower Council says it has been doing many promotions in major US cities like Miami and New York with the help of the Kenyan Embassy in Washington. This move is meant to position the country’s flower industry to fully exploit the US market once direct flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport start to the US begin.
Currently, we have some exporters sending summer flowers (those grown outside greenhouses) as another niche area we are exploiting to tap into the niche American market
Currently, about 2,000 small-scale flower growers operating under Wilma Ltd are supplying roses to the US market. Industry players see this as a milestone for Kenya, which has for years tried to enter the US market without success due to stringent market requirements demanded by the United States Department of Agriculture designed to protect local production from new pests and diseases.
Ms Ngige said the export market has traditionally been dominated by big exporters, but this could change as the focus shifts to consolidating production by small-scale farmers with the particular target of the US as a niche market.