By CATHERINE RIUNGU
January 10, 2019, Nairobi. Who speaks for the flower industry in Kenya? This question has been asked countless times by media – local and international since Jane Ngige quietly left the Kenya Flower Council after more than a decade at the helm. The easiest way of answering is to say what HortiNews has been telling members of the Press, but we choose to repeat the question; who speaks for the industry?
In September, the industry was hit by some unpleasant headlines and acres of space in a local weekend paper extensively quoting a report titled: Blooms of Death. Other than Oserian Development Company that sought audience with the publishers and got its rejoider published; and Fairtrade whose reaction was a little lackluster, the rest of the sector laughed off the whole spread, dismissing it as malicious and misinformed, at worst, ignorant.
HortiNews went a step further, planned to publish a proposed “State of the Flower Industry” response from the sector but not a single industry association responded to our proposal. Elsewhere in this edition, we have published what can pass as an industry bottom-line from Oserian, Fairtrade and Magana Flowers. It is shocking that such an issue that touches the nerve of this industry can be so casually handled by players who will turn round and cry foul when largely an informed articles are published, accuse the media of not doing its homework and publishing erroneous damaging information.
The industry institutions include; Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service(KEPHIS), Agrochemicals Association of Kenya(AAK, Kenya Flower Council(KFC), Pest Control Product Board(PCPB), Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya(FPEAK), International Biological Manufactures-Kenya and others. This year has not been the best for the flower sector.
From heavy rains to extreme cold, shortage of essential fertilizers, workers redundancies and diversification as shrinking margins take their toll, it has been anything but rosy for the Kenyan rose. Who, we ask, speaks for the flower industry? Ordinarily, there should be a forum that periodically briefs media about the status of the sector so that when negative reports creep in, the newsmen know how to navigate the terrain without latching on a seemingly juicy story that ends up a costly mess.
Towards end of the year, the much publicized Kenya Airways maiden direct flight to New York took off on October 31, landed at JFK Airport and returned. It was one of those one-hit-wonder tales. Before the flight, stories were all over about how flowers and other fresh produce from Kenya would be among the key beneficiaries of the flight.
Until HortiNews spoke to an American flower industry insider at the International Flower Trade Exhibition (IFTEX 2018) who burst out bubble. Unless Kenya flew a cargo plane to Miami, JFK for flowers was a no brainer.
We followed up and confirmed with exporters and consolidators the KQ direct flight to New York was not that exciting for the industry after all. That week, we got more calls and emails from media. They wanted to know who to talk to about the impact of the flights to the industry! Who speaks for the industry? As we went to press, the Water Resource Authority ( WRA) had picked a fight with stakeholders in the Lake Naivasha Catchment area following proposals to reduce the Riparian Land. We will delve deeper into this matter in the January 2019 edition of HortiNews, but even as we pen off, we will leave you with the question, who speaks for the industry?