Those Valentine's Day flowers might just be from Kenya

NYAHURURU, Kenya -- This Valentine's Day, there's a good chance your flowers came from Kenya.

"I know the flowers are for giving on Valentine's Day," said Phanice Cherop, a worker at a flower farm in Kenya.

See Full Article

"They are very beautiful."

On a crisp February morning, Cherop squeezed through a row of shoulder-high white roses, cut a flower and methodically placed it in the bunch she carried. The Kenyan-grown flower was likely headed for a vase in Australia, England, Japan or the United States.

Kenya's cool climate and high altitude make it perfect for growing large, long-lasting roses. Such conditions have helped make Kenya become the world's fourth-biggest supplier after the Netherlands, Ecuador and Colombia.

Cherop, a 29-year-old single mother of two, works at AAA Growers' Simba farm in Nyahururu, four hours' drive north of the capital, Nairobi. It's the one of company's four 20-hectare (50-acre) farms that make them Kenya's third-largest grower of vegetables and flowers combined. Cherop was one of 600 workers bused in from surrounding villages to pick or pack thousands of roses to be sent around the world ahead of Feb. 14.

Flowers are intricately tied to the global economy. When it collapsed in 2008, the cut-flower trade lost $1.5 billion the following year. In 2013, global exports of cut flowers, cut foliage, living plants and flower bulbs amounted to $20.6 billion, more than twice the amount in 2001.

International events, including Russia's war in Ukraine and plummeting oil prices, have shaped flower fortunes for numerous Kenyan farms. Sales to oil-producing nations, such as Norway and those in the Middle East, have dropped due to their reduced spending power, said Britain-born Andrew Mules, general manager of AAA Growers' Simba farm.

"Up until two years ago, flowers would have been the most profitable part of the farm," he said. "Now it is our third after soft fruit and then vegetable crops."

Kenya is the sixth-largest flower exporter to the U.S., according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As east Africa's agricultural powerhouse, Kenya supplies the European Union with 38 per cent of its cut-flower imports, partly due to a tax-exemption trade agreement.

Mr. Mules, who farmed in Zimbabwe before being evicted under President Robert Mugabe's land reforms, said prolonged rains due to the El Nino weather pattern have pressured the company's bottom line.

"The timing of Valentine's Day is perfect for Kenya because it falls in the dry season," he said. "Unfortunately, this year, due to el Nino, it has lengthened the so called 'short rains.' Instead of stopping in November we were getting rain in January."

Another lament is about Russia.

In 2012, flower exports to Russia, the world's fifth-largest flower importer, began shrinking due to its tanking economy and depreciating ruble. Russian military intervention in Ukraine in 2014 only "worsened the situation," said Cindy van Rijswick, a fruit, vegetables and floriculture analyst at Dutch bank Rabobank.

"A more indirect effect is that, because of the declining cut-flowers exports to Russia, these flowers are supplied to other markets, which causes pressure on prices," she said.

Dana Malaskova, AAA Growers' commercial manager, said that up until September 2014, the company was sending a quarter of their flowers to Russia, with a steady 5 per cent annual growth; now the volume has shrunk to 5 per cent of the total.

"We no longer rely on Russia for International Women's day on March 8, the year's second-biggest flower-giving event," she said.

The drop in Russian demand isn't translating into a drop of the price of a bouquet this Valentine's Day, said Neville Ratemo, a director at Kenya's Horticultural Council.

"There is always a big volume at this time of year and people will always be buying roses, so the price goes up," he said.

The Kenya Flower Council said exports rose from 86,480 tons in 2006 to 136,601 tons in 2014. Kenya's flower business continues to employ half a million Kenyans and earned more than half a billion dollars last year, according to government statistics.

In the temperature-controlled storeroom of AAA Growers' warehouse, stacks of cardboard boxes bound for Canada, Australia, the United States and France are the end point to the process that started with workers like Cherop.

Cherop, who earns Kenya's rural minimum wage of $80 a month, said the arduous manual work is a necessity to feed her family. Giggling, she admits, after a bit of prodding, that she's never received flowers.

"We do not really do this here in Kenya," she said. "No man has ever given me. I would like some."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Donald Trump on being president: ‘I thought it would be easier’ [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is sounding wistful as he reflects on his first 100 days on the job. The president says he “loved” his “previous life. I had so many things going.” He says his new gig is “more work than in my previous life. Source
  • Canadian Forces say they want to remove 77 members for sexual misconduct

    World News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — Military officials say they have moved this year to force out 77 service members found guilty of sexual misconduct. Many of the cases are older and none of the members have been released yet, as their files go through what the military says is due process. Source
  • House OKs bill averting Saturday gov't shutdown, Senate next

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- With just hours to spare, the House easily approved a short-term spending bill Friday that would prevent a partial federal shutdown over the weekend. But on President Donald Trump's 99th day in office, lawmakers were leaving for the weekend without completing two other measures he's coveted: A Republican health care overhaul and a budget financing government for the entire year. Source
  • Trump signs order to expand drilling in Arctic, Atlantic oceans

    World News CBC News
    Working to dismantle his predecessor's environmental legacy, President Donald Trump has signed an executive order Friday that could lead to the expansion of drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. With one day left to rack up accomplishments before he reaches his 100th day in office, Trump ordered his interior secretary to review an Obama-era plan that dictates which locations are open to offshore drilling, with the goal of the new administration to expand operations. Source
  • Body of Sgt. Robert Dynerowicz returning to Kitchener, Ont. Friday

    Canada News CBC News
    The body of Sgt. Robert "Bobby" Dynerowicz will be returned to Kitchener, Ont. Friday afternoon. Dynerowicz died Tuesday after he was involved in an accident while riding in a light armoured vehicle during training at CFB Wainwright, Alta. Source
  • U.S. to push for tighter sanctions on North Korea at UN Security Council meeting

    World News Toronto Sun
    Turning to diplomacy after flexing military muscle, the United States will urge the U.N. Security Council on Friday to increase economic pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, leaning on China in particular to turn the screws on its wayward ally. Source
  • Cops: Purse saved woman shot at point-blank range

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Police say a New York City woman shot at point-blank range during a robbery was saved from a bullet wound thanks to her purse. The New York Police Department says a 52-year-old man ran up to his intended victim on a Brooklyn street early Wednesday morning and demanded her car keys. Source
  • Forces seek to oust 77 members for sexual misconduct

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Military officials say they have moved this year to force out 77 service members found guilty of sexual misconduct. Many of the cases are older and none of the members have been released yet, as their files go through what the military says is due process. Source
  • Forces seeking ouster of 77 for sexual misconduct

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Military officials say they have moved this year to force out 77 service members found guilty of sexual misconduct. Many of the cases are older and none of the members have been released yet, as their files go through what the military says is due process. Source
  • Trump: ‘I thought it would be easier’ [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is sounding wistful as he reflects on his first 100 days on the job. The president says he “loved” his “previous life. I had so many things going.” He says his new gig is “more work than in my previous life. Source