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September 07, 2008

Local certification to ease Kenyan flower exports

by Kenneth Kwama

The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) is on course to be an accredited body to provide certification for flowers meant for export. The European Union (EU) accreditation will give it powers to inspect and certify locally produced flowers as fit for the international market as early as next year.

If successful, the agreement will eliminate the need for flowers to undergo further inspection in vast markets where they are exported like the EU countries and Japan. It will also help reduce a number of bottlenecks that have been slowing exports.

KFC’s Chief Executive Officer, Jane Ngige, says the status will enable the council to enforce an internationally required code of practice that encourages farmers to take care of the environment by rehabilitating wetlands and adopting new technologies like containerised growing, where water is re-used.

"We are building internal capacity for self-regulation and the process is proceeding well. We hope to be an accredited body to provide certification for flowers," says Ngige.

The move with potential to increase the volume of Kenya’s exports, is exhilarating, for local flower growers who are the leading exporters of cut flowers to Europe and Japan, providing about 36 and 19 per cent, respectively of stems sold in those regions.

It will also help mollify emerging markets like Japan, which of late has become one of the largest consumers of Kenyan flowers. According to Ngige, Japan is a lucrative destination, but is also full of challenges. "It is a difficult market because the authorities there want Kenya to fumigate its flowers before exporting. "

"We are also planning to train our own inspectors to help create confidence in our ability," says Ngige.

Kenya’s market share in Japan increased from 16 per cent in 2005 to 19 per cent by end of last year, earning the country Sh140 million. Last year, the country earned Sh32 billion from flower exports.

Flower growers will also be thrilled about the expected status because of its potential benefits considering the new ‘Open Skies Agreement’ between Kenya and the US that will allow for direct flights between the two countries. Currently, all flowers being exported to the US from Kenya have to pass through Europe before they are passed on to the final destination.

Direct flights between the two countries will reduce the cost of transporting flowers and also remove a bit of weight from the back of exporters currently weighed down by the carbon miles debate, among other changing standards.

The maiden flight operated by Delta Airlines will make its first journey to the US in December.

The Standard

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