Flowers: Coast's untapped bounty
The coastal belt is known for producing a mouth-watering basket of fruits - pineapples, mangoes, chilies, bananas and passion fruits.
The region has exported its enviable bounty to Europe and Middle Eastern countries. But a fresh push is coming up to encourage the cultivation of horticultural produce.
According to the Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPCK), the flower market especially in Europe is a lucrative one and farmers at the coast are missing out on the billions floating on European floral markets in the Netherlands and UK.
In the UK alone, the market for cut flowers is worth £1.3 billion (Sh167 billion). During an interview, FPCK CEO Okisegere Ojepat said the new port of Lamu and Mombasa Port have created an avenue that should spur the growth of the horticultural sector at the coast.
Currently, the bulk of Kenya’s fresh produce for export is concentrated around the Rift Valley and Central Kenya regions.
Mr Ojepat said there is an enabling export infrastructure at the coast and what remains is for farmers to make fresh produce available for the export market.
He noted that already serious engagements with county governments of Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu are ongoing with a view of having farmers in these regions assisted to venture into horticulture farming.
He stressed that FPCK has identified markets for chilies in Europe, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and South Korea.
Horticultural Crop Directorate Director Benkami Tito said various government agencies and players in the private sector are forging ahead with plans to boost fresh produce export.
Nairobi still remains the export hub for cut flowers.
Mr Benkami averred that there exists a huge potential for horticulture farming at the coast where the ocean and airports rule.
“The coast has been endowed with traditional crops like the Asian vegetables,’’ he said.
Theophilus Mutui, managing director of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service said his agency has repositioned itself at the coast.
“Besides Lamu, we are in Mombasa and Shimoni Port. We are also eyeing presence at Moi International Airport,’’ Prof Mutui said.
Kenya Airports Authority acting General Manager Marketing Jacob Bwana said the recent upgrade of Moi International Airport and expected repair of Malindi Airport will boost fresh produce export at the coast.
Kenya’s vegetable exports hit Sh24 billion in 2020 compared to Sh25 billion in 2019. Kenya shipped approximately 60,000 tonnes of vegetables in 2020 compared to 73,000 tonnes shipped in 2019, according to state data.