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Continually improving its range of agricultural innovations to suit the ever changing global environmental conditions and European floriculture markets regulations, Amiran introduced the Amiran Plastic Mulch, an effective, safe generation product from Ginegar Limited, the world’s 2nd largest producer of plastic.

Brought into the country at a time when the agricultural sector was challenged with water shortages due to the 2007-8 drought that hit most parts of the country, Amiran Plastic Mulch has helped farmers to save on cost and conserve water resources with its numerous benefits.

Kenya’s flower industry has been on impressive highs, having surmounted several lows to remain among the most preferred globally.

Changes in weather which have hit Kenya’s competitors like Ecuador have worked to the benefit of Kenya. Brazil which is clearing more of traditional flower farms and converting them into real estate has equally given Kenya a competitive edge.

The irony however is that the same factors working for our country are in a few years going to work against us. Already the effects of climate change are being felt particularly in agriculture. Land meant for production, of even flowers, is quickly being subdivided and turned into commercial plots. However the noise to oppose such moves is not loud enough.

This is one of the major problems of our flower farmers. Markets still continue to pose challenges, growing conditions are not quite streamlined, yet the demand keeps coming. Farmers keen on question their information thirst are turning to international companies because there is no local information.

Trouble with this is that international companies don’t know local solutions and are therefore not better placed to give homegrown solutions. According to a Horticultural Crop Development Authority (HCDA) report, there is enormous growth potential in the small-scale flower growers if appropriate financial and technical assistance as well as a supportive policy can be put in place.

The overall enormous growth in value, acreage and volume of Kenya’s cut flower industry has been largely attributed to a robust private sector involvement and externally-sourced knowledge and technologies. Kenya has adequate technical and human capacity and skills but this has not been adequately utilized by the industry.

A recent study jointly showed weak interactions between the flower farmers and the local research system causing the floriculture industry to rely on external knowledge to solve the industry’s problems.

This over-reliance on external knowledge has contributed to the under-utilization of indigenous research capacity in Kenya, even though most of the stakeholders agree that Kenya has adequate skilled and well-trained manpower.

The slow, bureaucratic procedures in the public research institutes undermine their ability to respond to urgent farmers’ requests. Most farmers’ experiences with public research institutions are heartrending, whereby it takes more time to get results from local laboratories, whereas if they sent samples to laboratories abroad, it would take them less to get results by email.

Farmers’ needs, such as disease outbreaks are usually urgent and require immediate solutions.

The delays from the local public research system forces farmers to seek solutions from international research establishments. underscore the need to improve the interface between and among scientists, researchers, farmers, policy makers and service providers and build the capacity of industry stakeholders to conduct demand-led research.

For any research activity to be useful, it must be sensitive to local needs and priorities as well as allow ownership of its agenda by the intended beneficiaries. In the case of floriculture research, flower growers and exporters are the key stakeholders and their views should help inform research decisions.

Information on market trends demands, tastes and preferences, transactional costs and prices should be easily available and updated.

Market access is closely related to phyto-sanitary compliance and proper (pre- and post-harvest) handling of flowers. As yet, there is minimal emphasis on post-harvest handling and training for growers. This constitutes an opportunity for the research and training institutions.

Companies like Elgon Kenya which commands over 80 percent of all flower customers in the country has a wealth of information about market needs, and trends which if turned into documented study would play a key role in providing informed guide to growers and other industry players while making the Kenyan flower competitive in the global arena.

Elgon Kenya’s extensive network of agronomists and field officers has enabled them interact with different growers who have shared with them their farming experiences.

Such information could be key in addressing gaps that stands in the way of profitable and internationally competitive flower production business.

Our role in supporting government and the flower producing fraternity bloom remains unflinching and we call on a hybrid partnership to make this a reality now more than ever.

Rwandan farmers engaged in food and export-oriented agriculture will benefit from a 50 per cent subsidy on irrigation equipment, one of the means the government has devised to enhance the production of fresh produce (fruits, vegetables, flowers) for the local and export market.

Amb Claver Gatete, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, says the initiative will help reduce the country’s expenditure on food imports, especially rice, and expand the exports base.

“We are confident this scheme will boost the sector’s productivity and, eventually, increase our exports, especially from the horticulture sub-sector,” the minister said.

He says that both small and large-scale farmers, particularly those engaged in production of export-oriented crops, will benefit from the subsidy.

As the curtain opens on the Naivasha Horticultural Fair 2014 Exhibition, the 12th edition, there is barely room for any shortcoming that may inhibit its success. All minds and hands that know what it entails have been up and down to try to put different pieces together to make what can be seen as the true spirit of the regional horticultural industry.

The event, since its first ever occurrence has continued to aggressively spread its tentacles world over, luring to its importance the most reputed and less comparable companies in various business of sorts.

The beginning of the event concept wasn’t such humble though the humility and value that is endowed in the event itself reflects a totally different picture. Good institutional organization, positive projection and a solemn consideration of participant’s interest.

The Kenya Flower Council continues to follow up on the increased number of interceptions at the EU market due to the presence of harmful organisms and most unfortunately, inaccurate documentation. Take note that despite notable improvement, tolerance for both issues is zero.

To forestall an import ban on the specified products, the EU must be provided with a convincing and objective ACTION PLAN, with clear timelines on outputs, to mitigate against the interceptions.

A meeting held at KEPHIS office on 20th August 2014 by the Horticulture Competent Authority (KEPHIS; Horticultural Crops Directorate; formerly HCDA, PCPB, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization KALRO; formerly KARI) and KFC and another held at KFC office on 21st August 2014 between KEPHIS staff, EU consultant and KFC reviewed progress on identified interventions.

Global warming is likely to make sourcing large supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables harder and more expensive, says leading supermarket chain Asda.

It says 95% of its fresh produce would be affected by projections of longer summers, heavier rainfall and more extreme weather events.

While the impacts of climate change may be relatively small in the UK compared to overseas, Asda and its UK customers will face heavy impacts because of its global supply chain.

“Climate change is going to fundamentally change growing conditions in some of the markets and countries we source from,” said Paul Kelly, vice president of corporate affairs at Asda, which is the UK branch of US superstore, Walmart.

Concerned about the effect that rising sea levels and changing weather patterns could have on its supply chain, it has launched a Climate Adaptation Framework. “The challenge of how we put healthy, sustainable and affordable food on the plates for customers is one of the biggest challenges our company has ever faced,” Kelly added.

The company’s new climate strategy maps out how the supermarket’s produce and logistics will be affected in the face of changing weather.

The framework was prepared in partnership with the Climate Development Knowledge Network at PwC.

Its chief Sam Bickersteth said it demonstrates even developed countries cannot think themselves immune to rising temperatures and possible extreme events.

“There are lots of factors that will drive shocks in the food system… The UK is an island totally connected to the rest of the world,” he said.

Asda now ranks among the businesses pushing for more action on climate change because they see it having an impact on future profits.

Manuel Gómez Peña, vice president of sustainability at Asda’s US cousin Walmart, recently told RTCC: “It’s not something that we’re doing for public relations or it is the nice thing to do. It’s now making business sense.”

Chris Brown, senior director of sustainable business at Asda, said that they would not immediately be sharing the findings of the report with other companies, as it gave them a “competitive advantage” to know about climate change in the marketplace. But he added: “Once we’ve taken first mover advantage, I think there’s an obligation to use it more broadly.”

Kenya has now reached a decade of successful biological control of spider mites using predatory mites to replace acaricides. Correct use of the predatory mite, Phytoseiulus persimilis, was able to replace chemical acaricides completely.

This resulted in immediate improvements to quality of the roses – which improved the profitability of the crop. Stem length increased, and bud size was larger if chemical pesticides were reduced. Not only growers recognise this as a fact now – but so do discerning customers. They are now checking for pesticide residues on roses and asking suppliers to implement IPM programmes that reduce pesticides in sustainable way.

The success of Phytoseiulus stimulated a paradigm shift in how growers viewed biological control for flower crops. In the beginning, it was not uncommon for Kenyan rose growers to proclaim that: “It is not possible for us to use biological controls in flower crops because we cannot afford any cosmetic damage”. It was widely believed that biological control was not powerful enough to eliminate sufficient spider mites to prevent continued feeding damage.

Fortunately for Kenya, there were a small number of innovative growers who recognised the potential benefits and took the risk of testing the Real IPM Phytoseiulus programme. Simon van der Burg’s new company, Timaflor on the foothills of Mt Kenya was one of these farms. Simon supported Sam Ngugi who was his Real IPM field consultant who guided the Timaflor team through the process.

The increased stem length and bud size that resulted from the reduction in pesticide use meant that the new Timaflor packhouse soon had to be extended because yields exceeded expectations at the planning stage. The rest is history. Timaflor is a globally recognised brand of exceptionally good quality roses.

Real IPM programme
The backbone of our IPM programme is a routine, prophylactic introduction of predatory mites and weekly applications of bio-pesticides – all year around. It does not rely on scouting data to trigger an application. There is neither risk to the environment from regular use of biocontrols nor any risk of resistance to the biological agent developing.

The programme is economically feasible to apply, irrespective of whether the ‘economic threshold’ has been exceeded. Real IPM produces all the biological agents in Kenya, making it very ‘affordable’. A prophylactic programme is essential, because of the speed at which small numbers of insect pests and disease spores can build up, if they are not prevented from establishing. Reliable supplies of freshly harvested predatory mites, produced in Kenya are part of the crop protection programme for spider mites and thrips.

Spider mite control Products
• Phytoseiulus persimilis
• Amblyseius califonicus or A. andersoni
• Achieve (Metarhizium 78)

Real IPM’s high impact Phytoseiulus persimilis Clean Up Programme for spider mite uses up to 2 million Phytoseiulus per hectare.

A weekly maintenance programme uses 25,000 Phytoseiulus per week with 25- 100,000 Amblyseius andersoni per week. If non-compatible pesticides are used for thrips or downy mildew – growers apply Achieve (Metarhizium 78) to suppress mites until it is safe to re-introduce Phytoseiulus and Amblyseius andersoni. 
• Predatory mites kill spider mites on the underside of leaves where pesticides and silicon wetting agents cannot reach.
• Weekly high level introduction rates of predatory mites ensure more efficient searching for pests.
• Achieve sprays (Metarhizium 78) control pest mites without harming predatory mites.
• No scorching or stunting of plants,.
• Fewer pesticide residues on roses.
• Improved yield and quality

Kenya is now leading the world in its reduction of pesticide use in roses and carnations. Spider mite control was the first step in a longer journey. Timaflor has continued to develop its IPM programmes with Real IPM. Asante sana na safari njema! The writer is a director of Real IPM Ltd.