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Fertiliser shortage threatens Kenya flower sector




A worker at a flower company in Naivasha. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A crisis is looming in the flower sector in the country over a shortage of essential fertilisers, which now puts thousands of jobs in the industry at a risk.

Kenya Flower Council chief executive officer Clement Tulezi says the problem has worsened in the last five months, with efforts to have the issue resolved bearing minimal fruits.

The CEO has 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,” he cautioned.

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

He commended the government’s effort to retest shipped in fertiliser through the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), but termed the process as “extremely slow” and “highly inconveniencing” to the sector players.

Mr Tulezi called on the government to revert to the pre-shipment inspection to help resolve the current crisis that 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 make shipment 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 players had in the past not experienced any issues with shipped fertiliser.

Expressing similar concerns was the Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) chairman, Tom Ochieng, who said fertiliser was an important component in the growing of flowers.

He also called on the relevant agencies to expedite the testing processes, painting a grim future for the sector that offers employment 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 flower sector one of Kenya’s leading export exchange earners.

The industry’s role in the economy was recognised in the recently launched 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 US market.

Naivasha ,in Nakuru county, is Kenya’s floriculture heartland and home to leading flower firms including Oserian on the shores of Lake Naivasha, 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 Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the floriculture sector currently employs more than 150,000 employees directly and thousands of others indirectly.