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Crisis looms in flower farms as fertilizer shortage bites



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A crisis is looming in the flower sector in the country over the shortage of essential fertilizers putting thousands of jobs in the industry at a risk.

According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) Chief Executive Officer Clement Tulezi, the problem has worsened over the last five months, with efforts by the umbrella flower body to have the issue resolved bearing little fruit.

In an exclusive interview with the Nation, the CEO called for quick interventions from the relevant government agencies, warning that the jobs of more than 150,000 employees are in danger.

“If we shall not be able to surmount these challenges as quickly as possible, then Sh82 billion that industry raked in last year will be up in the smoke,” the CEO cautioned.

He complained that the volume and the quality of flowers shipped out of the country will be compromised if the issue of fertilizer shortage is not adequately addressed.

He commended the government’s efforts to re-test imported fertilizer through the Kenya Bureau of Standards, but termed the process as “extremely slow” and “highly inconveniencing” to the sector’s players.

Mr Tulezi called on the government to revert to the pre-shipment inspection to help resolve the current crisis which is almost crippling the lucrative sector.

“The process of testing is slow and we have on several occasions engaged the government on this but the response from the relevant ministries has been, at best, lethargic,” said Mr Tulezi.

He said two companies allowed to import fertilizer had a consignment of 880 and 750 tonnes respectively lying at different warehouses owing to the 100 percent testing requirement.

He called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and have the issues resolved, insisting that the sector’s players had in the past not experienced any issues with imported fertilizer

Expressing similar concerns is the Agricultural Employers Association Chairman Tom Ochieng who said the availability of fertilizer is an in important component in flower farming.

He also called on the relevant agencies to expedite the testing processes, painting a grim future for the sector that offers employments to thousands of Kenyans.

Kenya is one of the largest floriculture exporters to European countries and the world’s third largest exporter of flowers and foliage.

Cut flower exports have made the sector one of Kenya’s leading foreign exchange earners.

The industry’s role in the economy was recognised in the recently launched National African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) Strategy 2018-2023, where it was identified as a priority sector in the country’s effort to double exports to the US through Agoa’s duty-free access to the American market.

Naivasha in Nakuru County is Kenya’s floriculture heartland and home to leading flower firms including Oserian which was established in the late 1960s by the Zwager family and the ailing Karuturi which used to export at least a million stems a day in its vibrant years.

According to the KFC, the floriculture sector currently employs more than 150,000 people directly and thousands of others indirectly nationally.

Oserian, for instance, provides livelihoods to over 4,600 workers.