“On a daily basis we export 36,000 tons from this country,” said Clement Tulezi, the CEO of Kenya Flower Council. “So we are moving into a place where we want to market ourselves better, we want to brand ourselves better as a country, and also brand the Kenyan flower.”
And now, Kenya’s fragrant beauties are finding their way to farther shores.
“We are doing Beijing, we are doing Shanghai, and we are doing Guangzhou,” said Irene Nkatha, the sales manager of Red Lands Roses. “We started with one shipment per week, now we are doing two to three shipments per week. The distance is short. It’s only one day to go to Guangzhou, it’s only two days to go to Beijing.”
One of the main companies Red Lands Roses exports to is Jiuye Supply Chain in Guangzhou.
“We chose to introduce flowers from Kenya to China because of the vast number of varieties they grow, including some that you can’t find in other regions,” said Qi Bo, the director of Jiuye Supply Chain’s flower department.
The length of Kenya’s flower vase life is also an attractive quality for many.
“When you export like a stem today, it will take 14 days to 21 days in vase,” Nkatha said.
Qi Bo said there is a 25 percent yearly increase in demand for flowers from Kenya in China, and the company expects to double its imports to five million in 2018.
“In 2017, we imported 2.5 million flowers from Kenya,” he added. “Kenya has advanced breeding and planting skills as well as the cool-chain storage and transport technologies, which China is lacking.
The flower industry in China started late, and the overall product quality and its criteria is not mature, especially in terms of transportation. It’s very far behind Kenya’s.”
Red Lands Roses said it is exporting 11 percent of its production to China and has the potential to do approximately 30 percent if they were not facing obstacles.
“The biggest challenge is the flight,” Nkatha said. “We find we have only Kenya Airways, which is going only to one Guangzhou. So if you have another shipping going to Beijing, going to Shanghai, they need to use a domestic, which makes it not convenient and a bit expensive.”
High tariffs also pose an issue for both sides.
“We have heavy taxes and dues when importing agricultural products,” Qi Bo said.
“To solve this problem, we use a strategy called single import and centralized distribution. That means we import multiple batches of products at a single time and distribute them to Jiuye’s warehouses around the nation to reduce the influence of taxes and dues.”
“Our product is being charged higher taxes in China which makes us not competitive in that market,” Tulezi said. “Our hope is that the government will come in so that we can be able to negotiate favorable trade protocols and agreements with China.”
It’s a move that many believe could help Kenya’s flower industry reach full bloom in China.