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High freight charges disadvantage Kenya flower exports

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Small-scale farmers in Kenya have increased their output in recent years, but few are able to sell them in the export market due to the additional cost of freight charges. To stay fresh, flowers from Africa need to travel by air freight, which is the most expensive method of transport.

It can cost up to 400 shillings (4 U.S. dollars) per kilo to ship flowers to America or the European Union (via Schiphol in the Netherlands) according to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC). This cost is too high for smallholder farmers.

Most of the small-scale farmers in the east African nation grow summer flowers without protection, including eryngium and arabicum.
Arabicum is highly sought in the export market to blend with roses and give a variety of texture with its beautiful white flowers.

“Production of arabicum is common among small-scale summer flower growers in Kenya because it is an easy out-door product. However, the supply to the market has kept on reducing over the years,” Anita Mureithi of the Royal FloraHolland Kenya Limited said.

Unlike roses or gypsophila, summer flowers like arabicum are heavy, therefore, one pays more freight costs, which have been increasing over the years.

Kenya’s major cut flower export products are roses, with the east African nation shipping about a billion stems annually to Europe through the Netherlands, earning 1 billion dollars in 2017, according to the KFC.