Kenyan Floral Industry Faces Uphill Battle Amidst Economic Challenges

by Anna

In the face of challenging circumstances, the Kenyan floral industry is grappling with unprecedented difficulties, primarily driven by soaring freight costs and newly implemented tax regulations by the government. Despite these hurdles, industry leader Clement Tulezi, representing the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), remains steadfast, emphasizing the industry’s resilience and commitment to overcoming these obstacles.

Tulezi, speaking at the IFTF 2023 in Vijfhuizen, the Netherlands, shed light on the critical challenges faced by Kenyan growers and exporters, pinpointing high freight costs and taxing regulations as the primary culprits. Despite these hardships, Tulezi expressed unwavering pride in the industry’s achievements, emphasizing that these challenges, though formidable, have fostered resilience within the sub-sector.

Challenges: Freight & Regulations

A key concern for the Kenyan floral industry is the persistently high costs associated with overseas shipping and airfreight, especially when compared to neighboring countries. Tulezi highlighted the impact of these costs on producers, stating that many are losing orders as buyers find it more cost-effective to purchase from alternative producing nations. The disparity is stark, with the current cost of shipping per kilo to Europe standing at approximately $2.4, up from $1.4 pre-Covid. Tulezi advocates for government intervention, suggesting measures such as reducing taxes on elements affecting freight, including jet fuel, and eliminating certain costs like landing fees to promote healthy competition and lower prices.

Tulezi underscored the government’s role in driving up business costs through unprecedented taxes and levies, particularly affecting the fresh produce sector on a daily basis. KFC actively opposes these financial burdens at both national and county government levels, advocating for a more sustainable business environment amidst added market regulations.

Additionally, plant health concerns, primarily related to the False Codling Moth (FCM), pose a threat to the industry. Tulezi highlighted efforts by Kenyan growers to reduce FCM on roses, the country’s main export to the European Union, as evidenced by a decline in interceptions in 2022 and 2023. Tulezi expressed hope that the EU would acknowledge these efforts.

Achievements: Sustainability & Export

The European market is witnessing a trend towards sustainable practices, a development closely monitored by KFC. Acknowledging that Europe alone cannot meet its flower market demands, Tulezi emphasized the need for importing flowers from producing countries like Kenya. Despite lingering reputation issues from stories dating back 15 to 20 years, Tulezi assured that the industry has undergone significant positive changes. These include reduced chemical usage, improved water management, adoption of green energy, and active steps to reduce the carbon footprint, including the shift to sea freight.

Tulezi acknowledged the industry’s ongoing journey toward 100% sustainability, recognizing that it is a gradual process requiring collective efforts. He conveyed a sense of hope amidst challenges, expressing pride in the country’s achievements and the positive changes witnessed thus far.

Good Hopes for the Future

Despite the formidable challenges, Tulezi concluded on an optimistic note. He stressed that the industry’s resilience provides an opportunity to focus on critical aspects such as worker welfare, environmental stewardship, and the promotion of ethical, accountable, and transparent practices. Tulezi assured that the Kenya Flower Council stands ready to support stakeholders across the entire supply chain, offering tangible and practical solutions to ensure the industry’s continued growth and success.

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