Flower farmers face east as uncertainty looms over EU


Players in Kenya’s flower industry are looking to uncharted markets in Asia specifically China in a move to diversify export markets.

According to Kenya Flower Council, there’s a huge population in China and growing demand for quality flowers provides flower farmers with a viable customer base to capitalize on.

However a four percent import duty levied on cut flowers from Kenya has made exports to the region all the more challenging.

Speaking during the International Flower Trade Expo in Nairobi, Kenya Flower Council chairman Richard Fox said while China presented opportunities, there was need for the government to intervene and have the levy scrapped.

“Currently supplying to china there is a four percent duty, so we shall work with government to see if that ten percent can be removed because China has a large flower buying population. We know we can compete; we just need that trade facilitation,” Mr Fox said.

The growth of the Chinese flower market has been buttressed by the introduction of direct flights between Nairobi and Guangzhou.

The courting of buyers from the east comes as uncertainty reigns over the traditional markets in the European Union.

In part the slowdown emanates from the decision by the United Kingdom to exit the EU as well as the East African Community’s delay in signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Kenya Flower Council chief executive officer Jane Ngige the situation presents a case for flower farmers to look to new markets also in the United States to ensure steady exports.

“We do not need to reduce our volumes going to the EU. However it does mean that when you have diversified your markets, then you do not have all your eggs in one basket,” Ms Ngige said.

133,658.3 tons of cut flower was exported from Kenya in 2016, earning the sector Sh70.8 billion in revenue making it the largest horticulture export.

While Kenya currently contributes to 35 percent of the world’s cut flower market, it faces stiff competition from the likes of Ethiopia.

Additional Reporting by Sophie Kinoti 

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