The push for smallholder flower farmers enters into auctions
The push for smallholder flower farmers to enter into auctions that have remained a domain of medium and larger growers got a shot in the arm following the launch of a credit facility administered by Equity Bank and the Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project (KHCP).
Through Wilmar Agro Ltd,-a consortium of smallholder growers- some 40 farmers in Nyeri and Kiambu counties will access the Ksh 3.9 million ($48,750) pilot credit facility to help them to expand flower production and improve quality.
“The funds will enable farmers to procure improved technologies such as shade nets, drip irrigation systems, soil analysis, improved varieties, and other farm inputs”, KHCP said in a joint communiqué with Equity Bank.
At the moment, Wilmar is shipping 120 boxes of flowers weekly to the US, whose market potential for Kenya is expected to grow.
Research conducted by Wilmar on suitable varieties for smallholder production is leading to increasing competitiveness at the auctions where specialized products for blending bouquets are in high demand.
The the recently introduced Mollucela, a summer flower variety produced by smallholders in the two counties is reported to have taken the markets by storm.
Attempts to introduce the flower in 2009 failed when the variety proved difficult to grow in the open field due to high disease resulting from heavy rainfall.
To tackle the challenge, KHCP has introduced a technological package, which includes a greenhouse tunnel, drip irrigation, soil analysis and integrated pest management. Eight research and demonstration units have been set up and the first flowers were harvested this month in Sagana, Nyeri County.
“The quality has been excellent with a total of 828 stems harvested from just two beds, earning one farmer Ksh10, 800 ($135). The flowers were packed and air-freighted to the Dutch auction where they are enjoying good prices,” said Wilmar managing director Wilfred Kamami, who says the prevailing earnings are a premium of Ksh13.50 per stem.
By CATHERINE RIUNGU