County eyes American flower market in bid to boost returns

The Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomo (left), Governor Nderitu Muriithi (right) and other participants at the Laikipia County Government Investors Forum in Nanyuki on Friday. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Laikipia County Government is eyeing the American market in a bid to promote horticulture exports to the US.

On Friday, the county government leadership held a consultative meeting with private investors and State agencies to deliberate on ways to ensure flowers grown in Laikipia get markets in the US as well as promote tourism.

The meeting dubbed Laikipia County Government Investors Forum organised in partnership with Standard Group brought together key players including Kenya Airways, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Kenya Airports Authority, State Department for Trade, Flowers Growers in Laikipia, ranchers and financial institutions.

Laikipia County Development Authority CEO Githuku Mwangi was optimistic that the county has the potential to export horticulture products if they meet set standards.

Development plans

“What we are looking for is an agreed plan on how to improve our products after we identify the market requirements,” said Mr Githuku noting that they aim to have a five per cent market share for flowers exported to USA.

The move to bring together various players to promote agriculture and tourism sectors in Laikipia followed a trip to America by a team from the county government in November last year to study market dynamics abroad.

Standard Group Chief Executive Officer Orlando Lyomu assured the county of his commitment to supporting the promotion of agribusiness and tourism, saying direct flights to the US is a key factor they should exploit.

“The national and county governments have development plans set to be achieved and we (media) must be actively involved as key partners in transforming the lives of Kenyans through our various platforms,” said Mr Lyomu.

The CEO cited the Big Four Agenda as a development plan by the government that needs media attention.

“For a long time, politics (although important) has received huge media attention but we must now look into the direction of development,” he added and said Standard Group would partner with other counties in similar programmes.

Statistics presented at the meeting showed that horticulture is top on the list of the total exports to the US market.

In 2017, Kenya exported goods worth Sh594 billion out of which Sh115 billion was horticulture, translating to more than 20 per cent of the total exports.

“Out of total exports in horticulture, flowers have the highest magnitude. Out of the total horticultural products exported to America, Sh82 billion was flowers translating to about 70 per cent,” said KQ Cargo General Manager Dick Murianki.

The county intends to benefit from the recently launched direct flights to America and the strategic partnership between the US and Kenya, agreed upon when President Kenyatta met President Donald Trump in August last year to ease market access.

Perishable goods

Previously, exporters had to go through Europe to sell flowers to America.

“There is ready market but growers must be willing to meet the required standards and increase the volumes,” added Mr Murianki noting that KQ Cargo flights to US started on December 1.

Other countries where Kenya exports perishables include Netherlands, United Kingdom and Australia.

Kephis Managing Director Esther Kimani said for flower growers in Laikipia to penetrate the US market, they have to meet the minimum requirements of freedom from pests and diseases.

“Our mandate is to ensure that products are safe before they get to the market because it can be risky to a country if we export low quality products,” she said.

Governor Ndiritu Muriithi said they intended to have the number of American tourists go up to 20,000 from the current 5,000 holidaymakers touring the county yearly.

“When businesses expand, employment opportunities go up and hence income increases. Our aim to see that business in the two sectors improve markets locally and outside Kenya,” said Muriithi.

The Kenya Airports Authority committed to complete rehabilitation of the Nanyuki airstrip runway in December to accommodate more and bigger aircraft to boost toursit arrivals.

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