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Weddings keep Kenya’s local flower industry blooming

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Not many Kenyans buy flowers for each other often to express affection or appreciation for good deeds.

Even lovers wait for specific days like birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine’s Day to buy roses for each other. However, despite this fact, the East African nation’s local flower industry is thriving.

The flower vendors have found good business at events and institutions. The events include weddings and funerals and for institutions, churches, companies and hotels top the list of buyers.

“I supply flowers mainly at weddings and in particular over the weekend,” Caroline Wanjiku, a vendor at City Market in Nairobi’s central business district said Thursday.

Occasionally, she gets week day orders, but they are very few and less bulky like those of weddings.

Roses consist of the bulk of flowers that she sells and are in great demand across the events and institutions that buy.

“At weddings, I mainly supply purple, yellow or red roses. But it also depends on the theme colour of the couple,” she said. A bunch of roses at her stall goes from as low as 2 U.S. dollars to a draped bouquet at 25 dollars.

Wanjuki has been in business for the last six years and she says during this period, individual citizens demand for flowers has not changed.

“A majority of people especially men buy flowers only during Valentine’s Day. Women sometimes buy flowers during the other times but for men, no,” she offers.

Wanjuki supplies flowers to up to four weddings from Friday to Sunday, with Saturday being her busiest day.

Competition has stiffened in the business over the years, with more players coming on board and flower shops opened in malls across the capital.

At City Market, there are dozens of traders selling flowers from a handful the previous years. And the vendors source the flowers from farms in Naivasha, Thika, Kajiado and Nairobi.

“We sell exclusively by order. Once I get the orders, I source the flowers from various farms, refrigerate them and sell for about a week. I also add value to others by putting them in vases, adding dolls or love messages,” said Sammy Musau, an attendant at a flower shop located on Ngong Road.

Musau supplies the flowers mostly in weddings, many that take place in leafy suburbs of Nairobi. His prices vary from 20 dollars to 110 dollars depending on the bouquets and value added to the flowers.

“Weddings are my biggest market. Not even churches, funerals or corporates beat them,” he offered. At weddings, flowers are needed at various sections like at the church and reception.

“The bride and her maids must have a bouquet of flowers each. Some teams have up to eight or 10 people,” he explained.

Then there are flowers that go with decor and those placed on tables in the tents. Then others are those spread in the alleyways both at the church and reception. For all these, most couples part with an average of 600 dollars.

“There is good business in the flower trade but things would have been much better if individual Kenyans would be buying flowers,” noted Musau, who works with three other people at the shop.

Most of the flowers grown in Kenya are sold in Europe, with emerging markets like Asia showing great potential.

However, the local flower industry contributes a very small fraction of earnings in the industry.

Last year, Kenya exported flowers, mainly roses, worth 1 billion dollars to Europe, according to the Kenya Flower Council.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, attributed the low uptake of flowers among individual Kenyans to competing needs amid stagnated incomes and culture.

“If the middle class take up flowers, the industry would boom but people have many competing needs that include school fees, rent and buying food as incomes remain nearly stagnated. In such a situation, buying flowers does not become a priority,” he said. 

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