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Breakthrough for Kenyan flower exporters to US

PIX

After years of wait local small-scale growers finally have been granted direct access to the market

Small-scale flower farmers are expected to make huge earnings after they were allowed to directly sell their produce to the US market.

 Previously, the growers, operating under a firm called Wilmar Limited relied on other more established exporters to market and sell their produce to consumers in the vast American market.

Kenya Flower Council chief executive officer Jane Ngige said Kenya has tried to enter the US market without success due to stringent requirements by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“It is an achievement for smallholders since we are now including them in an industry dominated by big exporters, to who they supply the fillers used in preparation of bouquets,” explained Ngige.

“Our farmers will now export directly to this market,” she said when presiding over the opening of a modern grading shed put up by the farmers with the support of the United States Agency for International Development inconjuction with the Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project in Thika.

The development comes soon after the US allowed Kenya to sell selected vegetables such as French beans, pineapples and carrots.

Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya chief executive Stephen Mbithi said the development would help Kenya diversify its markets.

“The US is a niche market, which we have tried hard to enter,” he said adding that the challenge is to increase volumes and product range, although lack of direct flights remains a transportation nightmare for fresh produce destined for US.

He said the US market prefers a ready product that buy flowers in boxes, prepare bouquets and  resell.

“When we do value addition here we not only create jobs locally but also present a more powerful brand from Kenya,” he said.

The colourful bouquets are certified by the highly rated Rainforest Alliance, with a single piece fetching Sh5,000 at the end market.

Rainforest Alliance certification encourages farmers to grow crops sustainably- environmental protection, social equity and economic viability. Consumers are willing to pay more for products with the label, to support farmers and farm workers worldwide who are working to improve their livelihoods and those of their families.

Farmers who cut across 10 counties are organised under Wilmar, a Thika-based exporter, who is marketing on their behalf.

Following the success of the US market entry, new smallholder flower varieties have been introduced for diversity. In the past, only three varieties were grown outdoors and these include  onyx, mobydick and eryngium.

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