By Mary Mwende Mbithi
Two years without you seeing me was the longest time I’ve been away! Did you miss me?” I know you are already wondering, but this is not me, this was actually IFTEX asking after being away for two good years.
It’s been two years since Covid-19 pandemic struck, and that’s just how IFTEX got locked out. Curfews and lockdowns characterized the season, creating turbulence in the flower industry. It was like a long, still and dark night for the flower industry.
Finally, after the dark cloud of Covid-19 turmoil has subsided, and the world is recuperating from the ravages of the pandemic, it has finally dawned a good day for the flower industry. This year2022; The year that has seen the reawakening of a sleeping giant, IFTEX 2022. Without much ado, the day had eventually come. From 30th of May to the 1st day of June 2022, it was just pomp and colour everywhere at Visa Oshwal Center in Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya.
When the doors flung open, beautiful bouquets splashed the corridors of the magnificent Dinesh and Mahesh Chandaria auditorium, displaying the rich varieties of the world’s floral prowess. Rainbow-coloured Roses and summer flowers were among the flowers that sprayed the air with their sweet aroma. A mega entrance by David Osiany Hsc Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, brought the day to a kick-off as he officiated the grand opening of the Expo.
In his opening speech, he said the horticulture exports had in the last three years surpassed tea placing horticulture at the forefront of exports in Kenya with an outstanding 70% from the floriculture sub-sector.
The growth of revenues from the past three years too was promising for they had grown from Kshs 107billion to Kshs 110.8 billion. Horticultural exports in 2020 were valued at Kshs 165.7 billion with Kshs110.8 billion straight from the flower industry.
CAS Osiany noted on the active involvement of women in the flower industry. He called on flower growers to continue supporting women and providing a conducive working environment for their growth.
“The government is very keen on this sector because women are the majority. I wish to encourage all flower producers, especially large scale investors to continuesupporting women by providing them with a conducive environment for work and deliberately invest in their health care,” said Osiany.
It is of importance to note that the cut flower sector employs over 350,000 people directly in the flower farms and over three million others who support the farms through provision of auxiliary services and goods.
IFTEX is a great event for interaction among Kenyan flower growers and international flower buyers. Buyers from all across the world gather in this event every year to purchase the superb quality of the flowers for which this exhibition is famous for.
At this year’s Expo, different stands and stalls were designated for different exhibitors among them horticultural growers, agro-chemical companies, biologicals companies, media outlets, breeders, machinery and safety gear companies. The participants came from Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and South America to meet buyers from key markets in Europe, Asia and the US. Every exhibitor was trying to create a niche in their area of specialization, selling and wooing potential clients for their business. Suppliers, growers, exhibitors, buyers and visitors made the various categories of potential clients and contacts. It was a fun-filled business fair that saw information and knowledge flow freely among all those present and had an intend. Marketing took the centre stage as exhibitors grabbed the moment giving away freebies to inquisitive visitors and clients who showed up at their specific stands.
The three day International Flower Trade Expo (IFTEX) is a professionally organized floricultural exhibition that aims to invite the right set of buyers and provide local floriculturists to learn more about the international floriculture market and help them expand their scale of operations. This event also aims to exploit Kenya’s potential as one of the largest markets for fresh cut flowers.
Mr. Dick Van Raamsdonk, President HPP Exhibitions, and the Brain Child of IFTEX who has made a big contribution to Kenya’s flower sector. He said the event affirmed Kenya’s position as the leading flower producer. He believes that IFTEX is the only event where one can meet all flower growers at the same time and place, together with its buyers. Breeders want to meet growers and growers want to meet buyers. It’s as simple as that.
According to Mr. Dick, IFTEX has become a regional event, hosting growers from other African flower producing countries that are too small on their own to hold such an event.
IFTEX was encompassed by ‘the flowers by sea conference’ on its second day. This conference involved stakeholders in the flower industry among them Chrysal, Flower watch, Kenya Flower Council (KFC), Maersk, Kuehne+Nagel and Kenya Maritime. The idea was to discuss the transport of flowers by sea as an alternative to air transport of flowers.
The fair was crowned by the signing of a framework of cooperation between Kenya and the Netherlands to create cold chain infrastructure for the transportation of flowers by sea to solve the challenges posed by air transport.
Recently, there has been bottlenecks here and there that have engulfed air transport of flowers among them high freight charges as well as freight shortage of cargo space. This has brought to the table the rethink of sea transport as a solution with the larger advantage as reduction of the carbon footprint.
As sure as it was, the IFTEX expo was one learning event that had so much to take home.