If you were the lucky recipient of a bunch of fragrant roses this Valentine’s Day, it’s likely that they came from Kenya.
The country is the third largest exporter of cut flowers in the world, accounting for around 35% of all sales in the European Union. Famed for being long-lasting, Kenya’s roses, carnations and summer flowers are also popular in Russia and the U.S. where last week several growers showcased their blooms at the World Floral Expo in Los Angeles.
The event is one of the industry’s largest and gathers over 80 exhibitors from across the world, with several Ethiopian growers also representing the African continent alongside Kenya.
The country’s flower power is attributed to its sunny climate, which enables high-quality blossoms to be grown year-round without the need for expensive-to-run greenhouses. Kenya also has excellent transport links to Europe, and from there, the rest of the world through Nairobi airport, which has a terminal dedicated specially to the transport of flowers and vegetables. This means that delicate floral cargo which is perishable in nature can be shifted from growers to consumers swiftly.
More than 500,000 people in the country depend on the trade according to the Kenya Flower Council, with roughly half of the country’s 127 flower farms concentrated around Lake Naivasha, around 90 kilometers northwest of Nairobi.
“Naivasha is a big centre because it’s a freshwater lake and it is not very far from Nairobi, which makes transport easy,” says John Kihia, technical director of Floralife Africa, a company which provides hydration, transport and storage for the cut-flower industry. “People have been growing flowers there for a long time so there is a skilled labour force in place,” he adds. Read more