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El Nino fever grips Kenya flower sector

By Standard Reporter | November 23rd 2015 at 15:27:50 GMT +0300

The Kenya flower sector is on blue standby as el Nino rains start pounding parts of the country as growers get ready to tackle the numerous challenges associated with flooding, cloudy, cold and wet weather.

“We are expecting higher concentrations of disease, subdued production, disruption of transport and marooning of employees requiring we plan for emergency evacuations”, said Oserian Development Company administration director Kirimi Mpungu.  

The effects could spill over to the industry’s most important annual flower sales season, Valentine’s Day due to interruption of production cycles by the chilly weather, which inhibits productivity, he added.  

The Kenya Flower Council Chief Executive Officer,  Jane Ngige,  says the phenomenon will dampen the fortunes of  flower exports that had began blooming going by last year’s performance when Sh 56 billion in foreign exchange was earned, compared with Sh 45 billion the year earlier. Volumes stood at 130,000 tons, the first increase in five years, Mrs Ngige said. 

Key concerns include diseases such as downy mildew, powdery mildew and botrytis that develop rapidly in wet, cloudy, cold weather. Farms have stocked up on agrochemicals due to anticipated increased sprays, repaired pumps and purchased new ones.

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“We are not leaving anything to chance”, said Mr Mpungu.

He added that the farm has cleared drainage trenches and is ready to pump out water if need arises. In addition, all leave has been suspended to have all hands on deck.

Naivasha growers have formed a security committee with regional security officers to ensure that emergency responses at the farms and residential areas are on standby. “There could be need to rescue workers if residential areas get flooded”, Mr Mpungu added.

Emergencies could include falling of trees and  power lines creating the danger of electrocution therefore, all danger points have been marked for action, he added.

The farm has also placed sandbags to redirect flood water and debris away from the farm, while the health center staff is on high alert in case of emergencies associated with flooding such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid and malaria. “Our first aid kits are not only fully stocked but extra requirements added to avoid running out of products when needed most”, said Mr Mpungu.  

For starters, flowers need optimum sunlight and heat for key growth activities like photosynthesis. Again when it is cold, flowers tend to shrink and curl as they seek to conserve energy. Such dormant growth process is likely to slow production and maturity of flowers, a factor that the industry worries may slow sales volumes during Valentine’s season. Oserian however isn’t sleeping on its laurels and intends to ensure normal flower growing conditions are set in place. It has introduced artificial light and heat to maintain the required light and temperatures to keep the flowers growing.

el Nino Kenya Flower Council Jane Ngige
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