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close this bookThe Courier N 127 May - June 1991- Dossier 'New' ACP Export Products - Country Reports Cape Verde - Namibia (EC Courier, 1991, 104 p.)
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View the document‘New’ ACP export products
View the documentThe fruit and vegetables market in Europe: the case of France
View the documentFinding new markets in the North by Mercedes SILVA
View the documentFlowers and foliage: a blooming market
View the documentKenya - Broadening the range of agricultural exports
View the documentMauritius - successful diversification under adverse condiffons
View the documentZimbabwe - rhe expansion of non-traditional exports: general explanation
View the documentGhana - diversifying the export base problems and strategies
View the documentThe growth of non-traditional exports in the Caribbean
View the documentJamaica - manufacturing: almost exclusively for export
View the documentJamaica’s Preferential Trade Arrangements
View the documentPromoting export of ACP manufactures - The role of CDI

Flowers and foliage: a blooming market

Flowers and foliage are increasingly becoming important exports from many ACP countries to the EC, the United States and Canada. Despite the highly perishable nature of these products, and the long distance to their markets, tropical countries have gained a significant and growing share of the international trade in cut flowers, foliage and plants.

Twenty years ago markets for flowers and foliage in Europe and North America were supplied by domestic production and by a few countries that had both the skills to grow and market these products and frequent flights to provide airfreight capacity to transport them. The earliest exporters to the EC were Israel, Spain, Portugal (before its entry into the Community), South Africa, Kenya and Thailand. North American markets were supplied by Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico and Peru. More recently, as new air routes have developed, so have opportunities for new producers, particularly in Africa and the Caribbean. Because cut flowers and foliage are high value products they offer tempting alternative crops for farmers looking to diversify their production.

Total world imports of cut flowers, cut foliage and green plants rose by 55% in current value terms between 1981 and 86 and have continued to increase. Germany is the world’s largest importer of these products, followed by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Participants at a seminar on Agricultural Diversification in the Caribbean, organised by CTA and CARDI and held in Barbados from 27 November to I December 1989, were able to hear how countries such as Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and Dominica were developing their exports of cut flowers and foliage. In all these countries, production has grown rapidly in the last five to ten years and in some instances further export opportunity is limited only by available aircraft space. Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad are better served with flights than the smaller islands but even these countries are finding freight space scarce; Dominica, with no direct flights to Europe or North Amercia, is in an even more difficult situation.

Africa’s share

In Africa, Ivory Coast and Kenya have long been major floricultural exporters but other countries are also finding markets and increasing production. Among these are Burundi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Cd’Ivoire’s main product has been the decorative pineapple but in recent years other plants that have been exported include aglaonema, dracaena, maranta and philodendron. Togo has exported substantial quantises of croton, ficus and dracaena while Zambia has developed a trade with the Netherlands in anemia (a fern), used to fill out floral arrangements.

Kenya’s major floricultural exports are carnations and roses. One Nairobi-based company alone produces 230 million stems of cut flowers a year, marketing 80% to Germany, 15% to the Netherlands and the remainder to the UK and other countries. Statice, alstroemerias, ornithogalum, liatris, gypsophila, larkspur and aster are among the other crops grown.

Plentiful sunshine, water and suitable soils are not of themselves sufficient ingredients for making a success of floriculture. Greater management skills are also required and, because they are more fragile and perishable than even fruit and vegetables, there is much greater risk of damage through careless handling at harvest, grading and packing. Most floriculture products demand rapid movement from field to packhouse; cool conditions are essential during grading and even lower temperatures during storage prior to transport to the airport. Once at the airport, produce must be loaded and despatched with minimum delay; hold-ups due to late take-off can be disastrous where ambient temperature is high.

Markets must be surveyed and niches found for produce. Then, production must be matched precisely to market demand. This will differ from country to country and even from season to season. Kenya supplies flowers to EC countries at times of the year when Israel, Spain, Portugal and Turkey cannot supply. And all producers should anticipate periods of peak demand in Europe and North America such as Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day.

Newcomers to the business should start modestly and gain experience of the pitfalls before committing too much financially. Where aircraft space is limited, it may require action at government level to provide more capacity. Thailand’s orchids, one of the country’s major exports, were faced with inadequate cargo space for European destinations in 1988. The European market, worth $20 m that year, was set to increase by 15.6% in volume and 35.8% in value, but only if cargo space could be made available. To resolve the problem, the commercial aviation department of Thailand relaxed the regulation that required airlines to charge a lower freight rate for orchids.

Floriculture exports have the potential to benefit both individual growers and national earnings of foreign exchange but, to take advantage of the opportunities, governments will probably have to help their growers by encouraging airlines to make space for these high value products.