President of Namibia Hage Geingob on his recent three-day state visit to Kenya not only committed to strengthen diplomatic ties with that country but also took time to tour some of the flourishing Kenyan commercial flower farms.
The demand for Kenya flowers all over the world is rising, and the East African country is the third largest exporter of cut flowers globally and accounts for around 35 percent of all flower sales in the European Union. Kenya’s roses, carnations and summer flowers are also popular in Russia and the U.S.
Some of the reasons Kenya excels in the production of cut flowers include that the Kenyan climate is perfect for growing a wide range of top-quality produce and because Kenya lies at the equator, where there is direct sunshine for most of the year, causing flower stems to grow straight naturally – a highly desirable feature in the flower market.
Days after Namibia concluded the second land conference early October, Geingob called on the revival of the once flourishing Ongombo West which used to produce flowers for the EU markets before it was run into the ground by resettled local farmers.
Ongombo West farm before 2005 exported 150 000 flowers to Germany, Holland and South Africa annually.
In its heyday, Ongombo West produced between 130 000 and 150 000 arum lilies (Zantedeschia flowers) worth an estimated U$500 000 over a three-month season as of 2005. But currently the farm section occupied by its former employees is in a sorry state and has an atmosphere that is heavy with a sense of desperation, poverty, unemployment and illiteracy among the resettled farmers.
Presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari who gave an update on the recent state visit by Geingob to the Republic of Kenya said the president undertook a tour of a black tulip flower farm, including Karirana Estates and Limuru.
The biggest percentage of Kenya flowers still find their way to the EU, with the most significant markets being the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and other EU countries. But new markets that are currently showing lots of further potential include the United States, Japan, Dubai and Russia.
The Kenya flower export industry has created employment opportunities for several Kenyans over the years, whether directly or indirectly.
Around 100 000 people are employed directly on the flower farms, while over 500 000 people benefit indirectly from this industry. For example, local florists purchase flowers that do not make the export ‘cut,’ and make a good living from them.
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