Flower farming is one of the largest contributors to livelihoods in Kenya. According to the 2020 KNBS Economic Survey, export earnings from cut flowers increased by 3.2 per cent to KSh 107.5 billion in 2020 and accounted for 71.6 per cent of total fresh horticulture export earnings.
The flower export industry is Kenya’s second largest foreign exchange earner after tea, at a staggering figure of $1 billion. These high export earnings from cut flowers are attributed to better prices offered in the export market.
This goes to show that flower farming could be a thriving business venture although capital intensive.
So, what do you need to know before you get into this business, and how much does it cost?
Market comes first
Sachin Appachu, Operations Lead and Flower Expert at Bliss Flora Ltd, says with proper planning and dedication, flower farming is economically feasible.
For novices wishing to venture into flower farming, he says the few but most important things to consider include: choice of variety, soil quality, availability of water, flower market and good farm management.
“Unless you have specific markets, don’t start a farm. The industry is already flooded with a lot of flowers.” — Sachin Appachu
Carry out viability studies on the different varieties available so that you can know what will work for you.
With favorable weather and ideal conditions for flower farming, the most popular flower breeds in Kenya are roses, carnations and chrysanthemums. Gypsophilla, tulips and lilies are also common breeds.
“The other thing to consider is the management of the farm as you want to have the right people running the decisions on the farm,” he adds.
Cost of Land
Peter Njagi, Operations Manager at Primarosa Flowers Ltd, says it is crucial that you know which type of land and climate is suitable for the type of flower you intend to grow.
“If you want to get land for example in Nyandarua County, land goes between KSh 1.5 million to KSh 2 million per hectare,” he says.
He continues: “The least number of hectares you can do to get your capital margins back is at least 20 to 30 hectares. You cannot do 1-3 hectares and think that you are making any money because the estimate number of production you can do in a hectare in a day is around 3,400-3,500.”
Some of the major components included in the capital estimation of a flower farm are: land preparation, greenhouses, royalties, propagations, irrigation, cold room facilities, farm equipment as well as labor.
Costs vary depending on which materials will be used for construction of the greenhouse – wood or metal or a combination of both.
“You need good capital because it will cost you between KSh 25 million to KSh 35 million to start one hectare of a rose farm in Kenya – all inclusive of irrigation, the plants, polythene, greenhouse structures, cold storage and land preparation,” Peter says.
According to Sachin, the success of a flower farm is highly dependent on the soil as well as the altitude. This is because each flower species requires different conditions to thrive.
The type of water you have is also important. Know its source beforehand to gauge the water quality as well as the type of irrigation you should use especially during a water crisis.
Feasibility studies should be done in advance for both water and soil – looking for productiveness and drainage as well as PH; in order to establish the efficacy and quality available to you.
Noting that flower popularity differs across different areas and could sometimes be difficult to predict, research intensively on the specific market you want to venture into as this will influence your choice of plant – whether its perennial or not.
Certifications and Regulations
Get proper certifications from the relevant bodies. Here are compulsory requirements that you should have:
- A Kenya Revenue Authority Personal Identification Number (KRA PIN).
- A Tax Compliance Certificate.
- A certificate of business incorporation from the registrar of companies.
- Clearance from National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and WRMA.
- An export license.
- A phytosanitary certificate from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services.
- Local authority business permit.
Capitalize on Floral Market Trends
Year in year out, the flower market witnesses a range of innovations. To keep afloat, it is important that you stay acquainted with consumer demands and offer high quality services.
Raol Leal, Sales Representative for International Markets at Sb Talee, Colombia, says keeping up with the trends will help you capitalize on growing your sales.
“The trend now is to grow special colors. The market is no longer looking for only the basic red, white and pink flowers, rather it is looking into special colors. As a company, we therefore specialize in developing new colors and special lines in order to meet the requirements.” — Raol Leal
After scouting and understanding the ideal variety, you can now go to the breeder. The breeder usually makes an agreement with a grower, where there is an agreed-on payment which you pay as a royalty specifically per square meter of the number of plants you’re planting,” Peter says.
He further adds that in a square meter, you can plant 10 flower plants, with each square meter being charged at 0.5 Euro cents. The bigger the number of square meters the pricier it gets.
“When venturing into this business, the initial cost can become hectic but the running revenue at the end becomes a good thing only if you’re able to choose the right varieties right from the start. Once you negotiate with the breeders and order for a plant, they get their royalties whether the flower will do good or not. It is your business to market whatever you have bought from them,” — Peter Njagi
Know Your Why and Conquer the Value Chain
It is important that you identify why you are starting a flower farm way before inception as this could help you diversify your revenue streams, noting that every step of the value chain has a mark-up.
Reduce costs by implementing your value chain analysis.
This can be achieved for example by having your own nursery, doing your own farming and being involved in your farm marketing and exportation.
As you sell your flower cuttings to direct markets or at auctions, seeds from your flowers can be sold to other people for planting while edible seeds such as those from sunflowers can be retailed as food.
Essential oils can also be extracted from fragrant flowers for example roses, jasmines, lavender among others. You can also sell dried flowers outside the flowering season.
Take part in flower competitions and flower fairs such as IFTEX and HortiFlora expos which take place across the world and are very competitive.
It is there that you can learn and explore breeding of your own varieties by looking into new trends and plants with higher quality from other breeders and growers.