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Kenya’s Flower

Industry adds a bloom to the country’s earnings

Image For Africans in Europe looking for a little bit of home, buying a bunch of roses may bring you closer than you think.

According to the Kenya Flower Council, about one out of every three bunches of cut flowers we buy will have come from Kenya.  By 2004, about 31% of the flowers required in Europe were provided by approximately 50,000 Kenyans directly employed by the industry in diverse areas such as tendering the flower from seed to bloom, trucking, packaging, administration, training and sales, to receptionists, cooks, supervisors and managers. In addition, there are more than a million other people engaged in other auxiliary services through trade, rentals, packaging material, cargo handling, transport, communications, security, banking, private and public regulatory services.  

Kenya’s 2nd Foreign Exchange Earner

The horticulture sector is Kenya’s number two foreign exchange earner after tea, bringing in $400m p.a. A substantial amount of this money is directed to ensuring sustenance of the livelihood of all those who are engaged by the industry in one way or another, while a considerable amount goes into the Government revenue.
The industry has seen a remarkable pattern of growth; in 1995, Kenya’s cut flower exports totaled US$60.7 million.  By 2004, sales had increased to US$253 million.  Roses are easily the most popular cut flower export.  In 1999, the country exported nearly 27 million kilograms of roses.  By 2003, exports had almost doubled to 45.6 kilograms.  Other favourites include carnations, alstromeria and summer flowers. 65% of the business goes to Holland, the flower auctions and for export across Europe. 23% goes to the United Kingdom – most of it to leading supermarkets – while business with Germany, currently at 7% of the total, is growing.

Kenya is the largest supplier of flowers to the EU representing 25% of their imports (75% of the flowers exported are roses) and has an export value of approximately Ksh18.7 billion. Being rural based, the flower industry is an effective conduit for wealth creation and distribution. The Kenya Flower Council, a voluntary association of independent growers and exporters, states that contrary to some schools of thought, flowers do not compete for land with food production as they only occupy 0.1% of the arable land. This is partly because roses, which comprise 60% of the national flower production, are grown in green houses where productivity is closely monitored for optimal yields under controlled environments.  Because of the need to continually monitor efficiency on expensive inputs in the form of chemicals, fertilizers and  water, there is a growing shift towards soil-less production or hydroponics, which allows for recycle of all the inputs. This is desirable from a cost of production point of view but also from an environment protection and conservation standpoint. 

ImageThe Council is confident that more families continue to benefit from the industry in one way or another. About 80% of the workers in the industry are non-skilled and approximately 60% of these are women. Most of these women would have found it difficult to find jobs elsewhere due to their limited education, having dropped out of school for various reasons, but mainly because where family resources are scarce, education for the girl child is often sacrificed in favour of the wellbeing of the family.

Working Conditions and the Environment

Image}The flower industry has drawn sharp criticism from environmental and other groups, leading to continuous efforts to improve working conditions and any harmful environmental impact caused.  As the umbrella organisation of flower growers, the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), has drawn up a strict code of practice for its members which stipulates, among other things, protective clothing for workers, safe pesticides and careful use of water. 

The KFC's vision is "to be a recognised world leader in the safe and responsible production of floricultural produce.”   Its members account for around 70% of Kenya’s exports of cut flowers.

With its trained auditors the Council ensures that each farm is visited at least once every six months. International accreditation is assured through the involvement of Bureau Veritas, which independently audits Kenya Flower Council activities. Only certified member farms (Gold and Silver) are allowed to display the KFC “environmentally friendly” logo on their produce and marketing materials as a clear signal to buyers of the commitment and standards achieved by the farms involved in this voluntary initiative.

Employment Opportunities

This emphasis on good practice is itself a boon to the economy as the flower industry also attracts additional investments through the non-governmental organizations and unions who provide a useful service as a watchdog over the industry. 

Employing approximately 100,000 people directly and 1,500,000 indirectly, the sector has grown through the efforts of the private sector with support but little interference from government of Kenya. The industry has been largely self-regulated against market requirements, international labels and additional compliance to Kenya’s national statutes. Horticulture is rurally based and contributes substantially to poverty alleviation in the countryside, offering - together with textiles and tourism - the best opportunity for growth and job creation.

World-Class Standards


The Kenya Flower Council’s Code of Practice has been accredited to EurepGAP, the agreed standards and procedures for the development of good agricultural practice as drawn up by leading retailers belonging to the Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group, a first for the industry and for Kenya.

According to Steve Homer, EurepGAP Ornamentals Technical Standards Committee Chairman, “The Kenya Flower Council is the first national growers’ association to achieve benchmark status with the EurepGAP ornamentals’ scheme and, in doing so, underwrites its position as a genuine world-class standard and dynamic industry association.”

Achieving the EurepGAP benchmark means that Kenya growers can achieve EurepGAP certification and recognition by their global customers but retain ownership and management of their own national scheme without duplication of activity.

For further information, contact Sally Peters, Kenya Flower Council,E-mail: sally@raittorr.co.uk

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