SMP 2131 Sustainable flower transport from Kenya

Kenya is a major producer and exporter of cut flowers. Currently the yearly export value is around 1 billion US dollars (source: Kenya Flower Council). Due to the global increasing demand for flowers, Kenyas production and export is steadily increasing. A great variety of floricultural products are produced in Kenya (e.g. roses, alstroemeria, carnation, ...). Roses are economically by far the most important flower for export. Several regions in Kenya have an excellent climate for year round growing of roses, with temperatures averaging 24°C well throughout the year. Virtually all Kenya rose exports are to the Netherlands; either directly to flower traders, or through the Dutch flower auction. All export, currently, is by airplane. There is a long standing wish among Kenyan producers as well as among the Dutch flower importers to make the transition from air to sea shipment.

Despite the past investments in sea transportation this has not yet become common practice in the transport of roses from Kenya to The Netherlands.

One of the main reasons for this are the defects frequently observed in the leaves, once the flowers are put in the vase at destination. These leaf defects are expressed as black or brown lesions that within a few days develop into completely desiccated leaves that fall off the flowering stem. In addition, defects on flower petals may also occur after long term transport in specific varieties. Apart from roses, leaf quality problems are also encountered in the long distance sea transport of other cut flowers such as chrysanthemum and alstroemeria, but to a lesser extent. The common assumption is that the leaf and flower quality problems in roses at least partly originate in the cultivation. The incidence is different between the different rose varieties and also within the same variety between different rose producers. Especially these leaf and petal quality problems are a major bottleneck in the transition to sea transport and will eventually decrease the competitive strength of Kenyan producers/exporters.