KENYA – Kenya’s horticulture export earnings rose by one third to reach US$1.01 billion in the first eight months of 2018, boosted by increased vegetable, fruit and flower exports, according to a Business Daily report.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows vegetable earnings rose by 9.6% to US$165 million, from 50,000 tonnes sold in the period, compared to US$84.9 million from 57,000 tonnes sold last year.

The country also earned US$98.6 million from 61,500 tonnes of fruit exports, with this category recording the highest rate of growth at 41% compared to the US$70.3 million earned in the eight months to August 2017.

On the other hand, flower exports rose the highest reflecting the prospects of a good market in the future.

The sector was boosted by improved rains this year, given that in 2017, the crops suffered from drought and harsh economic conditions as a result of a prolonged and tense political atmosphere.

Taking advantage of direct US flights

With improved political ambience, better rain and the recent launch of direct flights from Kenya and the United States, the sector is projected to record better numbers going into the future.

“Direct flights into the US not only comes to boost trade, but also opens new markets in America, who also have a significant appetite for Kenyan agricultural commodities.

“Direct flights from Nairobi to New York portend good tidings for the flower sector that has several firms signing trade deals with US-based retail chains,” said Kenya Flower Council chief executive Clement Tulezi.

“While past sales are good, we do risk losing our competitive edge due to fertiliser delays at the port of Mombasa, as well as costs incurred for clearance and re-inspection that farmers will have to pass on to retail buyers.”

Last month, the Ministry of Agriculture said it plans to increase horticulture and fruit exports to the United States as it takes advantage of the Kenya Airways daily direct flight to the country.

Kenya is the third largest flower exporter globally, with a 25% share of the European Union market ahead of Israel and Colombia at 16 percent each.

Even though the deal looks so sweet, the question remains whether Kenyan farmers will be able to meet the standards for exports, improve quality and quantity of their produce to avoid a ban.