Rising demand for bouquets as Kenyans mark Valentine's Day

Kenyans buy flowers for their loved ones during last year's Valentine's Day. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPCK) has noted a growing demand for ready bouquets by international markets as opposed to single-variety cut flowers.

FPCK Chief Executive Okisegere Ojepati says the increasing demand for bouquets is a good thing for the market and the economy.

“This means we can fetch more from the bouquets than sending pure cut flowers to the market and have bouquets prepared in the country of arrival,” Mr Ojepati said, adding that this is a value-added and more priced product.

He however noted that increased demand for bouquets doesn’t affect the demand for cut flowers.

Kenya, which controls 47 per cent of the flower industry in Europe stands to earn more from the demand for bouquets as they will be prepared locally.

The consortium’s chief executive has said the demand is tied to Valentine’s season as it is the peak season of flower sales.

“People sell more during Valentine’s and Mother’s Day. If you can’t sell flowers during valentines, you can’t sell any other time,” Mr Ojepati.

According to the fresh produce boss, the demand for bouquets means more flower sales. “It means we have more jobs created to prepare the bouquets for export,” he said.

“The demand means that people now trust our skills and expertise to prepare finished products here,” he said, adding that the demand means more revenue for the country.

“Going forward, we are seeing more requests for bouquets being finalised in Kenya as opposed to being done in Europe,” he stated.

According to the consortium, this means that the price for flowers which would have ordinarily gone cheaper if sold separately, would now fetch more money.

This rising demand, according to the consortium is a result of shifts in customer tastes and preferences in the export market. “Clients want more value and flower variety within a bouquet than if they went for just rose flowers,” he said.

In 2023, the consortium says the export of flowers earned more money due to the demand for bouquets. In a report by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), the value and volume of cut flowers hit a record low of 116,270 tonnes in 2023, amounting to Sh73.5 billion which is lower than the 2017 numbers.

In 2017, the country exported 160,000 tonnes worth Sh82 billion to the international market. In 2022, the country exported 203,000 tonnes worth Sh104 billion to the international market.

 According to the AFA, the horticulture sub-sector exported produce worth Sh156 billion in 2023.

 Horticultural exports

In the same period, about 455,000 hectares of produce were planted. “There are 950 licensed exporters of horticultural produce and, domestic production amounted to Sh184.7 billion in 2022,” he says.

In 2023, Kenya recorded an increase in the value and volume of its horticultural exports - exporting 468,438 tonnes to over 152 destinations. This netted the country Sh156.69 billion.

The flowers sub-sector registered 70 per cent, vegetables 18 per cent, and fruits 12 per cent of the total horticulture produce shipped during the review period.

Flower vendors sorting flowers at Maasai Market in Nakuru town during Valentine's day. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Netherlands was the largest export market, followed by the United Kingdom, France, United Arab Emirates and Germany. “Emerging markets are China, India and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has replaced Russia as an alternative market in Central Asia.

The Economic Survey 2022, by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed that the country earned Sh146 billion from fresh horticulture exports. The earnings, which were lower than those of 2021 were attributed to lower international prices for horticultural products, as well as the decline in quantities of cut flowers and vegetables exported.

“Earnings from cut flowers export in 2022 was Sh103.6 billion. In the same period, cut flowers accounted for more than 70 per cent of the horticultural earnings, thus continued to dominate the fresh horticultural export market,” data by KNBS.

Peris Mbugua, a florist in Nairobi says the flower business is good though not as busy as other Valentine’s seasons. She however remains optimistic of making more sales this season, as customers continue to make inquiries.

“We are not doing so many functions like weddings, but people are still buying bouquets,” she says. Ms Mbugua notes that prices skyrocket during Valentine’s season. “Farmers export a lot, so flowers in local circulation are minimal affecting the prices. Those who have flowers sell at high prices,” she says.

This season, she says a flower stem ranges between Sh50 and Sh100 depending on the packaging and size of the head. She adds that sometimes the price at which farmers sell to them more than triples, especially during Valentine’s season.

Ms Mbugua decries that the weak shilling is affecting her operating costs as the special package prices that come with flowers have gone up.

The local currency is however strengthening - going by yesterday’s official exchange rate by the Central Bank.