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By Mary Mwende Mbithi
With the industry just recuperating from the ravages of covid-19 pandemic, another setback has just hit the global flower industry. The war in Ukraine is threatening further disruption to an already overstretched global supply chain. The two countries may not only account for a small proportion of the imports of major growing nations but also account for a great percentage of supply of agricultural input such as fertilizers
Fertilizer is majorly produced in both Ukraine and Russia. More disruptions are likely to set in and further strain an already struggling sector, where the cost of production has been greatly high due to existing cost of fertilizers in Kenya. This will in turn decrease the growers’ profit margins.
The international Women’s Day is just around the corner and the flower industry is overly filled with high expectations to cash in on this remarkable day created in the 1920s. Women’s Day originally was an opportunity to praise Soviet women and their role in the state.
The national holiday is not only a celebration of Russian women but also big business for suppliers and sellers of flowers. Last year, Russia imported thousands of tons of flowers in all shades and colours ahead of the holiday, according to the country’s customs office. The top four countries of origin of the flowers were the Netherlands, Ecuador, Kenya and Columbia.
However, the flower industry is uncertain about the export of flowers to the conflict zones bearing in mind that the flower market spans across Russia, Ukraine and the neighbouring countries like Latvia, Belarus, Estonia and Lithuania.
The suspension of air traffic in both Ukraine and Russia simply means no exportation of flowers to markets in both countries. Though most flowers for this specific day had already been sent before, the issue of payment is also of concern to flower growers with the exclusion of Russian banks from the swift payment network.
Adverse economic effects of the war have also seen the stocks tumble in recent days mounting pressure on inflation already squeezing the stumbling global economy.
In Kenya, a number of growers export to Russia with one grower almost exclusive. Speaking to Floriculture Magazine, growers confirmed this will not only affect the already exported but also all year round market. The Russian market is famous for the large stem and big headed premium roses which may force those growing in high altitude to sell them at throw away prices in the other markets.
Again, if most Kenyan flowers miss their target markets in Russia and Ukraine they will eventually end up in the EU market which is also a flower destination for Kenyan grown flowers thus causing a market saturation which in turn causes decrease in prices hence losses to the growers.
Effects of Russia and Ukraine conflict will be greatly felt by suppliers and supermarkets across Europe in the coming weeks. On the other hand, Russia and Ukraine supermarkets as well as retailers that supply flowers to the end consumer have also been affected as fears of a protracted armed conflict escalate. This means that the bouquets will not reach the end consumer.
If this conflict persists, effects will be felt on the entire supply chain because there will be need to optimize their results through adjusting the purchasing price from their suppliers who are feeling the heat due to high costs of production and transportation resulting from soaring energy and fuel prices.
Consequently, growers are calling for an amicable solution to enable them continue with business as usual.
By Mary Mwende Mbithi
Though a happy day painted Red in colour, with overwhelmingly high expectations, this year’s Valentine’s Day might not have been so rosy for flower farms in Kenya. Like it has always been the norm, most flower farms have always looked forward to cash in on the day, but this year there was nothing to smile about.
Having experienced the biting jaws of the pandemic and almost shaken to its roots, the flower industry is struggling to resuscitate amid prevailing challenges. The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) in a statement said that the adverse effects of the pandemic saw the country’s export of flowers go down by 10% in the year 2021. As of now, the industry is almost on its feet despite hitches here and there.
Besides the lockdowns and curfews that almost crippled the industry during the onset of the pandemic, new setbacks have continued to add salt to the injury. According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), Kenya recorded a decline in flower production with the country producing 160,000 tonnes of flowers last year (2021) compared to 173,000 tonnes in 2020.
Kenya prides herself of a blooming flower sector and partnered with fourteen (14) pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai to distribute one million branded red roses this Valentine’s Day as the world celebrated love the Kenyan way: “From Kenya with love.”
The pavilions distributing Kenyan flowers included Sudan, Chile, Nigeria, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Philippines, Dubai Cares, San Marino, Marshall Islands, Malaysia, Lesotho, Mexico, Bhutan and Malta.
Top world flower exporter
Kenya is Africa’s lead exporter of flowers and ranks as the fourth largest exporter of flowers globally behind Netherlands, Colombia and Ecuador.
The most significant markets for Kenyan flowers are the European Union, United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Asia and Africa.
Kenya is the lead exporter of cut flowers to the European Union (EU) with a market share of about 38%. Approximately 50% of exported flowers are sold through the Dutch auctions, although direct sales are growing. Kenyan flowers are sold in more than 60 countries.
Valentine’s Day is a day for love, romance, and fragrant floral bouquets. But we can also make it a day for gender equality. That’s because when it comes to Fairtrade flowers, more than half of the 73,000 workers on Fairtrade certified farms around the world are women.
Fairtrade flower plantations offer a lifeline to rural women, providing essential income, enabling their families to thrive, and increasing their independence. According to a recent report, female flower workers also have more control over money. A third jointly manage household finances and 38 percent are solely responsible for them. Above all, specific Fairtrade programmes enable women flower workers to take part in leadership training, helping them achieve the futures they dream for themselves
It’s Fairtrade’s role as the connective tissue between social justice and on-the-ground action that inspired Susan Limisi, Fairtrade Africa’s Gender Coordinator, to lead the organization’s gender portfolio across 33 countries in Africa and the Middle East. An experienced gender specialist with a background in gender programming, monitoring and evaluation and psychological counselling, Susan saw in Fairtrade’s mission the opportunity to advance gender equality across the agriculture value chain by working directly with Fairtrade certified producer organizations.
Read more: On Valentine’s Day, Fairtrade Flowers Mean Gender Equality
By Jack Wekesa
Nematodes which are typically most abundant in upper soil layers where organic matter, plant roots and other resources are most abundant can be very devastating to the farmer. Some species can damage plant roots, stems, foliage and flowers by puncturing the cell walls using their sharply pointed mouths. It is estimated in flowers that 5 % of the Pesticides budget is for nematodes control.
Read more: Beware of your Enemy within your Soils – Soil Nematodes
Pesticide resistance can become a problem when the same chemicals are used over and over to control a particular pest. After a period, the pest may develop resistance to a chemical so that the chemical no longer effectively controls the pest at the same rate, and higher rates and more frequent applications become necessary until eventually the chemical provides little or no control.
The best way to manage pesticide resistance is to focus on three strategies: avoid, delay, and reversal. Avoid the development of pesticide resistance problems with the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs, which reduce reliance on chemical control. Delay resistance by using pesticides only when needed, as indicated by monitoring, and when pests are at a susceptible stage.
Plant nutrition is the study of the chemical elements and compounds necessary for plant growth, plant metabolism and their external supply. Without proper plant nutrition, plants tend to die off or produce little or no yield.
In my line of work I visit hundreds of flower farms a year; the flourishing, the ticking over, and the ones in dire straits. A lot of my more demanding work is dealing with farms that suddenly run into problems. “Ruth, please come and visit our farm as soon as possible, our production has suddenly dropped to half” is a common call. My advice to flower farmers on the critical issues in plant nutrition in floriculture would be as follows:-
Start with the Basics
Start with the basics, understand your soil and water and know what you are dealing with. A solid ‘risk’ assessment before you even buy the farm is recommended.