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

  • Islamic State recaptures historic Palmyra in Syria

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT -- Islamic State militants seized the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra on Sunday from government troops despite a wave of Russian airstrikes, a major advance after a year of setbacks in Syria and neighbouring Iraq. Source
  • No winner in $5M Lotto 649 draw

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- No winning ticket was sold for the $5 million jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw. However, the $1 million guaranteed prize was claimed by a ticket purchased in the Prairies. The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Dec. Source
  • Dozens killed in Nigerian church collapse

    World News CBC News
    Dozens of people were killed by the collapse of a church in southeastern Nigeria, a photojournalist who visited the town morgue said on Sunday, a day after the incident. "Dead bodies are stacked on top of each other because there is no space," he said. Source
  • Bombing at Coptic Christian cathedral kills 25 in Egypt

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO -- A bombing at a chapel adjacent to Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral killed 25 people and wounded another 49 during Sunday mass, in one of the deadliest attacks carried out against the religious minority in recent memory. Source
  • Bombing at Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral kills 25

    World News CBC News
    A bombing at Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral killed 25 people and wounded another 35 on Sunday, in one of the deadliest attacks carried out against the religious minority in recent memory. The attack came two days after a bomb elsewhere in Cairo killed six policemen, an assault claimed by a shadowy group that authorities say is linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Source
  • 39 dead as truck rams into vehicles on Kenya road

    World News CBC News
    A runaway truck carrying volatile gas slammed into other vehicles and burst into flames on a major road in Kenya, killing at least 39 people and injuring 10, officials said early Sunday. The truck lost control while going downhill on the road from the capital, Nairobi, to Naivasha late Saturday, said Mwachi Pius Masai, the deputy director and communications officer for the National Disaster Management Unit. Source
  • ISIS captures Palmyra castle overlooking ancient Syrian city

    World News CBC News
    Fighters with the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured Palmyra castle overlooking the ancient city in eastern Syria, a news agency affiliated to the militants said on Sunday.CBC goes to the front lines in the battle for AleppoAleppo exodus grows as thousands more leaveSyria, Russia pound rebel-held Aleppo but advances haltHeavy Russian air strikes had pushed back the militants from inside the city hours after they advanced on it in recent days in a surprise multi-pronged…
  • Day of mourning in Turkey after blasts targeting police kill 38

    World News CBC News
    Turkey declared a national day of mourning Sunday after twin blasts in Istanbul killed 38 people and wounded 155 others near a soccer stadium — the latest large-scale assault to traumatize a nation confronting an array of security threats. Source
  • A nasty Hungarian national mood rejects immigrants — and journalists

    World News CBC News
    The Goy Bikers Association of Budapest. Translation: The Non-Jewish Bikers Association of Budapest. We went looking for them as part of a report on the proliferation of extreme-right, xenophobic and anti-Semitic groups in Hungary, clothing themselves as nationalist defenders of the land. Source
  • 'We must kill the black snake': Prophecy and prayer motivate Standing Rock movement

    World News CBC News
    There is an ancient Lakota prophecy about a black snake that would slither across the land, desecrating the sacred sites and poisoning the water before destroying the Earth. For many Indigenous people gathered near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, that snake has a name — the Dakota Access pipeline. Source