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Kenya’s flower market update

From its good equatorial climate and weather patterns to a host of other favourable conditions, Kenya is proving to be a giant in global flower production.

That Kenya is a giant in floriculture is incontestable. Going by the quantity and quality of flowers it continues to deliver to markets across the globe, Kenya is among the leading countries in flower production globally. In fact, the East African country is among the top five largest flower-producing countries in the world, according to statistics.

The country’s floriculture sector continues to maintain an upward trajectory; showing great potential for more growth. This is according to experts in the sub-sector and global players from different value chains in the floriculture industry.

With its range of climatic conditions that vary from cold and wet conditions, to temperate weather, hot and humid, and hot and dry conditions, Kenya’s climate presents a combination of weather patterns that make the East African nation an ideal place to grow numerous varieties of flowers.

In fact, Kenya is the leading cut-flower producer in the African continent, and the third-largest producer of these flowers globally, a position that it continues to guard jealously despite emergent challenges threatening its flower industry. The country’s flower industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, with exports of cut flowers continuing to increase.

What Kenya's Flower Industry Looks Like

Kenya has a combination of factors that make it a key leading flower producer globally. With its significant number of breeders, growers, logistics players, flower inputs providers, and even floral designers, Kenya's flower industry, without a doubt is etching its mark in the world of flower production.

Breeders like De Ruiter East Africa, United Selections, Dümmen Orange, Delbard, Florensis Kenya, Interplant, Schreurs Roses, Select Breeding, Flamingo Group International, Solo Plant Kenya Ltd, and Stokman Rozen Kenya Ltd, among numerous others all have a presence in the country and have continued to ensure that Kenyan flower growers have enough breeding material for flowers like roses, alstroemerias, carnations, gypsophila, hypericum, lilies, and summer flowers and many others that the country produces.

The country also hosts numerous flower farms spread across its key flower-growing regions that range from the Lake Naivasha area to Nakuru, Nairobi, Athi River and Kajiado, Mt. Kenya region, Limuru-Rumuruti-Ol Kalou belt, Kericho-Kitale-Eldoret, and the Thika-Juja-Kiambu regions.

Some key flower growers in the East African country include Marginpar, Wildfire Flowers, Van Den Berg RoseS, Kisima, P.J Dave Flowers, Xpression Flora Ltd, Fontana Farms, Maridadi Flowers, Maasai Flowers, Suera Flowers Ltd, Carzan, Flamingo, Red Lands Roses, Subati Flowers, Sian Flowers, Ever Flora, Prima Rosa, and Elbur Flora, among many others.

Companies like Airflo, Xflora Group, Decofresh Kenya, Octoflor, Q7 Air Cargo, Maersk, and Hellmann Perishable Logistics (HP.L) and others partner with different global airlines -and now shipping- to deliver flowers to customers across the globe.

Flowers are the third-largest foreign exchange earner for Kenya. The country exports roughly 70% of its flowers to European countries, with the main export markets being the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, and Norway, with an export share of 43.3%, 17.1%, 5.8%, and 5.6%, respectively.

Kenyan Flower Council in the Netherlands

Most of the exported flowers from Kenya are sold at Dutch auctions, while others are directly sold to customers such as supermarkets and florists in the country’s other markets spread across the world.

Kenya's cut-flower industry employs more than 200,000 people across its different value chains and impacts - directly and indirectly - the livelihoods of up to 4 million people. In 2021, floriculture earned Kenya KSh110 billion (USD 809 million) affirming its great contribution to the country's GDP. The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia were Kenya's leading destinations for cut flowers during this duration between 2020 and 2021.

Where Are Kenya’s Flowers Mostly Grown?

Most of the flowers grown in Kenya for export are farmed in the regions around Lake Naivasha. This is a uniquely freshwater lake found in the backwoods of Naivasha, a township roughly half the distance between Kenya’s capital Nairobi, and Nakuru town. The town of Nakuru is roughly 90 miles northwest of the capital.

While virtually all the lakes in the region are saline, Lake Naivasha stands out as being a freshwater lake that provides sufficient good quality water for irrigation of flower farms when the need arises. It is estimated that more than 1,200 hectares of land are under flower cultivation in this region, with roses grown in up to 70% of the total area under flower farming. The acreage keeps growing as more investors come into the picture.

Counties, where flowers are grown in Kenya, include Nakuru (where Lake Naivasha is technically found), Kiambua, Meru, Nairobi, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Kericho, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Murang'a, Kajiado, Nyeri, Migori and Machakos as well as other small growers spread across different other counties.

Why Floriculture Is Such a Key Sector for Kenya

The flower industry is an important sector of the country. Stakeholders in the flower value chain hold that it is gradually edging out other industries as the most key sector that is sparking the growth of Kenya’s GDP and creating hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities along its value chain.

The industry contributes significantly to Kenya’s GDP and is a key source of foreign exchange for the country. It employs thousands of Kenyans along its value chain including at least 200,000 who are directly employed in flower farms. Some 4 million livelihoods also directly benefit from this industry in Kenya.

As earlier indicated, the floriculture industry in Kenya also continues to show significant potential for more growth. This, however, will be actualized with the right policies in place. Market research forecasts that in the period between 2023-2028, the Kenyan floriculture market is projected to register a compound annual growth rate of 5.1%.

Such stellar growth is driven by Kenya’s robust floriculture ecosystem made up of breeders, growers, exporters, logistics, and other players in the flower value chain.

Players in the Kenya Flower Sector

Kenya's flower sector is mainly dominated by players in the private sector. While the government may play a considerable role in the floriculture industry in the country, the vast majority of the stakeholders are from the private sector.

From the breeding companies to the growers and logistics handlers and exporters, Kenya's flower value chain is largely dominated by investors that have no direct affiliation with the government. However, the government has been key in coming up with policies that govern the workings of the flower industry in Kenya.

Founded in 1996, the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) is the body mandated with the promotion and advocacy of the interests of Kenya's flower industry. KFC represents more than 80% of the flower industry players in the country.

It strives to create an environment that is conducive for a thriving flower sector in Kenya, through working with both the county and national governments. Essentially, KFC represents Kenya's flower industry in government matters; lobbying for the industry to be recognized for what it brings to the country.

KFC works in partnership with other organizations like the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), Federation of Kenyan Employees (FKE), Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Agriculture Employers Association (AEA), and even Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture through its different departments to ensure the success of floriculture.

Other institutions like the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) and Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC Kenya), also have key roles to play.

Maintaining Sustainability on Kenyan Flower Farms

For the long term, the flower industry in Kenya is expected to face sustained calls for ensuring that flowers and plants are produced sustainably, from a social and environmental perspective. The industry is well on this journey though. Kenya is practically ahead of the global industry in the sustainability respect with at least 80% of the industry holding certification labels from the FSI basket of standards.

The industry started to self-regulate through the KFC Flowers and Ornamental Sustainability Standard (FOSS) in the mid-1990s and today this is paying quite handsomely for the flower industry.

Due to Its Resilience, Kenya Is Making Great Headways in Global Floriculture Space

Kenya has often seen its floriculture industry rise even amid emergent challenges that affect global economies. This has mostly been helped by the coordination and resilience of the industry’s different players ranging from the breeders to the growers and logistics, among others involved. The most recent challenge that nearly crippled the flower industry in Kenya and other industries all over the world is the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic caused the closure of businesses across the globe, lay-offs of employees, and losses of flowers as farms could not send their blooms to markets.

For growers, such as Red Lands Roses, whose blooms are globally acclaimed, Dr. Isabelle Spindler, the then director of the flower farm based in Ruiru, just outside Nairobi says the flower grower resorted to deploying different means to contain the wastage of their flowers. But when all the strategies did not seem to work, the farm could only watch as their flowers wasted away. But things are different now as the flower enterprise returned to an upward trajectory soon after the pandemic eased.

United Selections, which is a premier flower breeder based in Njoro, a small township in Nakuru prides itself on being a pioneer local rose breeding establishment in Kenya. Perhaps apart from a few others, virtually all other breeders are subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies. The twelve-year-old flower breeder is among the numerous that supply new varieties to not just Kenyan flower farms, but also others across the globe. It specializes in both spray and standard roses.

Edwin Kirwa, the marketing assistant at United Selections, who witnessed the effects of the pandemic on the flower industry in Kenya acknowledges that despite the hiccups induced by COVID-19, the country is indeed making great headways in the global floriculture space.

Mr. Kirwa says: "Kenya has always had an edge over its neighbouring countries when it comes to floriculture productivity. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic that struck in late 2019, paralyzing the entire globe’s economic prospects, Kenya’s floriculture industry still withered the storm to emerge strong and has been raring to go ever since."

At the height of the pandemic, for instance, fewer passenger flights than usual plied the crucial route from Africa into Europe, and freight capacity dropped to an all-time low as planes were grounded and others were redirected to moving medical equipment.

Such disruptions did hurt the industry - a lot more for the smaller farms and growers as they had to renegotiate with freighters amid escalating competition with bigger farms - for the available slots on freighting planes. But Kenya’s floriculture sector has steadily weathered these storms. The pandemic did, however, have quite an impact on the industry, with exports dropping in 2020 due to disruptions in supply chains and reduced demand from key markets.

Despite these challenges posed by the pandemic, Kenya's flower industry continued to show resilience and picked up quite fast; with growers adapting to new market conditions and exploring new markets. For example, some flower growers started selling their products locally, while others turned to online and e-commerce platforms to reach customers abroad.


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