[Column] Bob Koigi: For a competitive floriculture sector think sustainability and innovation
Weather changes coupled with a shift in preference by flower growers in farming technologies to sate market demands are seeing flower farms realign their operations.
Indeed the Kenyan flower industry has always been hailed internationally as a frontrunner in innovation that shapes the flower market. While pressure has mounted over the years among flower growers to have ethically produced flowers even as they battle skyrocketing cost of doing business.
The introduction of the iconic KS 1758 Flower standard and a raft of sustainability initiatives embraced by the Kenyan floriculture fraternity point to some of the is biggest steps the industry has taken in putting its house in order and ensuring that Kenyan flowers remain competitive in the international markets while rubberstamping that Kenya is home to quality and ethically produced flowers.
The standard require growers, propagators, breeders, consolidators, shippers, and cargo handlers to observe hygienic and safety requirements during the production, handling, and marketing of flowers and ornamentals.
The standard ensured the sector is able to respond to current international best practices that enhance compliance and market access
But it also elaborate the numerous steps that the industry has taken to self-regulate and ensure sustainable growing of flowers. At the moment the flower farms subscribe to different local and international standards to ensure that the flowers are responsibly and safely produced with due consideration of workers welfare and protection of the environment.
The standards look onto good agricultural practice, sustainability, social accountability, hygiene health and safety, capacity building, environmental protection and conservation.
Notable standards embraced by the industry including Tescos Nurture, Rainforest, Global Gap and KFC silver and gold have been panacea to restoring market confidence.
The locally developed standards including the Kenya Flower Council Silver Standard have gained international recognition becoming a benchmark for other flower growing countries and further rubberstamping the seriousness with which the local industry attaches to quality flowers.
These standards have been pivotal in addressing some of the industry’s problems water use and contamination, pesticide use, working conditions and the lack of transparency in the supply chain.
Having an internationally recognized industry standard like the KFC Silver, goes a long way to establish a Kenya brand of sustainably produced flowers in a market where the industry’s reputation for quality is already highly regarded.
The Carbon Reduction, Resources and Opportunities Tookit (CaRROT) project is another huge milestone worth celebrating. This carbon emission, energy and water accounting and management solutions toolkit has been crucial in enhancing resource use efficiency to control costs simultaneously with offsetting carbon. It is ensuring the flower industry’s efforts in sustainability are measurable and verifiable.
This initiative provides a solid foundation to ratchet up contribution of the flower industry to Kenya’s achievement of the sustainable development goals while safeguarding industry profitability.
But even with a myriad of both public and private tools governing regulation of the industry in the realm of labour standards and use, protection and stewardship of natural resources, it is clear from consistent reports and concerns raised in the public space, that more work on the robustness and thorough implementation of the regulatory systems needs to take root.
All efforts to make compliance more inclusive and to bring on board all exporters must be harnessed by both the private sector as well as the regulatory arms of Government.
Multiple award winning Kenyan journalist Bob Koigi is the Chief Editor of East Africa at Africa Business Communities