Now on its 13th year, the Naivasha Horticultural Fair has remarkably held its own as one of the most prolific and unique trade shows in the world. This year’s event is set for 18th and 19th September and will attract exhibitors and visitors from across Africa and beyond. We had a one on one exclusive interview with Richard McGonnell, the Chairman of Naivasha Horticultural Fair who gave us insight on the show's journey since inception. Richard also holds nothing back as he spells out the honest hard truth on the status of Kenya’s floriculture industry, candidly stating why things need to be differently inorder to salvage the industry.
Give us a brief overview about the Naivasha Hortifair… its origin, mission and vision?
Origin, A few beers with a friend, discussing all the negative comments from the press, who don’t really investigate their stories very well, and we decided to do this, to show the professional side of the farming, initially the press wanted to be paid to attend!!! Needless to say they were told they weren’t welcome. Mission is to help in the development of the Industry including the Agricultural Industry, and of course all profits go to local charities, esp the children’s projects.
What are some of the advantages for the exhibitors?
N H Fair is a lot less expensive than other trade shows in Kenya, so the smaller companies can afford to Exhibit, and show their products against the big suppliers, it is a very relaxed friendly atmosphere if you want to chill out and have a beer, soda, whatever it is available, a great way to met clients and friends
What is the general demography of visitors to the show?
Demography, nearly all the senior management from the farms visit N H fair and certainly a lot of Owner Directors also, we try and keep it as business like as possible, and we do not encourage bus-loads of School Children, no offence meant to the children.
Is the Naivasha Hortifair reflective of the country’s horticultural and floriculture scene?
N H Fair and the participants, take in the needs of all growers in Kenya, whether it be the high altitude, growing big headed flowers or the supermarket, medium headed flower growers, the business in Kenya is generally very professional, and although the market place is very diverse, we are , mostly, very adaptable.
What impact does the show have on the larger Nakuru County?
It certainly puts the Nakuru County and Naivasha on the world map, investors do look to the Nakuru/Molo area to develop flower farms, and indeed other industries,
In your own assessment, what is the status of the Kenyan floriculture industry currently?
For the most part the flower industry is very professional. The market place is still very large and diverse with lots of Global Competition, but also remains quite fragile with margins getting tighter and tighter. And certainly in Kenya, the growers get “almost harassed” for taxes, Cess, money for this, money for that, which has caused the industry to look elsewhere, esp. Ethiopia. In Ethiopia the government is bending backwards to attract investors into the Industry. Kenya will lose out, lose investors, lose jobs, to other countries. I would think nearly all the Hort/Agri industries are under financial pressure. Maize, Coffee Tea, Sugar, Pyrethrum, Flowers et all.
In your engagements with flower farmers (specifically) in Kenya, what are some of the challenges do you think they face? What are some of the solutions that can help create a better industry?
As I mentioned before, the government has a wrong assumption that the flower growers are minting money, and yet they are being charged cess twice now, through counties and HCDA. Electricity is most expensive in Africa, Why ? Lots of niggly taxes and frankly unneccesary Govt/County rules regulations. e.g. Now pyrethrum growers need a certificate of good conduct! Wouldn't you call that madness? The exchange rates are also hitting the industry very hard, making it financially harder. The impending El Niño rains expected in three or four months will also make life very hard for Flower Growers.
If someone invests in a small flower farm about Ksh 500 million (5m USD) at the same time creating employment for hundreds of people, then allow him to make money... and please stop taxing/charging them out of business.
What should visitors to the Naivasha Hortifair expect this year?
At N H Fair, we try and keep it a business-persons show. So things move slowly, more exhibitors, new technologies etc. Over the next few years we will become a Hort/Agri fair, it is very important to get the Agricultural growers involved including the small scale farmers who need to be advised on best farm practice, chemical use, alternative crops and more. This can help the country be more self sufficient in food production. But then again, self sufficiency in food production will only be realized with a free seller / buyer market place. There are millions of small scale growers out there, some of them may be large scale one day, so there is a huge amount of business yet to be tapped.
What was the number of attendees in the 2014 edition and what do you project this year?
Last year approximately 3,500. This year the footfall would be pproximately the same, we would have expected more but the car Show running in Nairobi have recently changed their dates to the same dates as ours, so they may take a few of the casual visitors, but the Growers will still come.
Anything else you would like to add?
We wish that all our clients and visitors to the fair have a successful and enjoyable show. I will also ask them to please drive safely, as we look forward to seeing them all, along with new faces during the 2016 edition.