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Kenya presents itself as a flower trade hub

Kenya is a gateway to Africa. That's how the country likes to promote itself, but when you take a look around at IFTEX, Africa's largest ornamental trade show, it certainly rings true. Growers from all over Africa, big logistics companies and greenhouse suppliers from across the world are all present. And traders have also found their way to the show.

Opening ceremony

Tom de Smedt of Hyplast, which supplies a lot of plastic greenhouse roofs in Kenya, mainly together with Vermako

BiFlorica, a Russian online platform where supply and demand meet. Interestingly, the webshop offers the option to have both parties negotiate with each other. The platform has been live since 2012, and now unites around 400 growers and 500 buyers.

The organizers are particularly keen on highlighting that last fact. For the first time in the history of the event, a dozen of North American buyers are attending. There's also some modest interest from Asia, and even a bit from Russia and Poland. Still, many producers say they're also finding clients in these difficult markets. Increasingly, the producers go straight to those markets, bypassing the Dutch middlemen.

Angel Solutions, one of a handful of all-round Indian greenhouse suppliers that are well-represented in Kenya. Left to right: Vishal Kothari (CEO), Hardik Rakholiya, Ganesh Kulkarni and Grace Katwiri.

Ugarose Flowers represents the Ugandan flower growers, around 20 in total. These growers mainly focus on the smaller roses that are interesting to retail. Pictured is Grace Mugisha.

Sepas Platics is a Turkish company in plastic films, specifically developed for the crop underneath it. After all, the optimal light recipe for a tomato differs from that of a rose, but so far the market has held fast to one type of foil. Ece Sanivar Kacak and Wagody Sobeih plan to change that.

Flowers are a staple of Kenyan export. The country has a hefty trade deficit, so the government sees the ornamental industry as having major potential for growth, something that was also noticeable in the opening ceremony. Kenya is by far the frontrunner in Africa, also because of the 'gateway' function it fulfils. As long as it manages to keep that status, it doesn't look like the current growth in production and acreage will come to a stop anytime soon.

WAC, a partnership between Agriom and a Ugandan young plant supplier, shows its assortment of roses. Pictured here are Richard McGonnell and Edo Kolmer.

PJ Dave Flora is one of the 5 growers from the PJ Dave Group. This farm is managed by GM Santosh Kulkarni.

Jean Dyens and Bruno Etavard of French breeder Meilland Roses, one of the big players in the cut rose segment.

It's not all about flowers in Kenya's budget, by the way. The country has a high production of coffee and tea, and other (vegetable) crops are also coming up. No wonder then that the IFTEX is combined with a Fresh Produce Show for the first time this year. In one corner of the show, around 50 exhibitors are showing their solutions. Whether this combination will be a success, time will tell.

The IFTEX continues until Friday, an extensive photo report will follow later.

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