New standards by Australia threaten Kenya flower exports

Tuesday November 20 2018

Workers tend flowers at a farm

Workers tend flowers at a farm: Australia introduced new requirements that all flowers exported to the country be fumigated at the country of origin. PHOTO | NMG 

NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
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Kenya is desperately trying to comply with new demands imposed by Australia to ensure the country’s cut flowers continue to access the fast growing market.

Early this year, Australia introduced new requirements that all flowers exported to the country be fumigated at the country of origin as part of new biosecurity rules. Before the new regulations, exporters were undertaking the fumigation process in Australia.

Although the rules introduced on March 1 were to take effect in August, the Kenyan government managed to negotiate for an extension and got a deadline of December.

“Australia’s new rule that every exporter fumigates flowers at source is a big challenge for Kenyan growers and exporters because we do not have fumigation facilities,” said Nehemiah Chepkwony, Horticulture Crops Directorate interim head.

Deadline

With the deadline fast looming and amidst efforts by Kenya’s ambassador in Australia to seek an extension of the grace period, the country is frantically racing against time to install the necessary facility to ensure the country continues to access the Australian market.

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The Horticulture Directorate has already issued permits to three private companies to invest in the facilities, one of which is SGS Kenya. The company is setting up a facility at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The other firms are Vegpro Group and Panalpina Kenya Ltd. “We are hoping to have the facilities ready in the next two months to enable exporters comply with the requirement because the Australian market in important for Kenya,” said Mr Chepkwony.

Being the leading flower exporter to Australia, Kenya cannot afford to lose the market that has been on a growth trajectory with exports averaging 30 tonnes per month.

Indeed a partnership between Kenya Airways and Australia’s Qantas Airways has significantly boosted the exports due to the creation of an efficient supply chain that makes it easy to reach key cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

Official data by Australia’s Federal Department of Agriculture shows that in 2017 Kenya exported cut flowers worth $16.2 million to Australia followed by countries like Malaysia ($12 million), Colombia ($9.1 million), and Ecuador ($9.1 million).

In February this year alone, Australia imported 5.22 million rose stems from Kenya, up from 4.37 million stems in the same period last year.

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