China is a large market with a lot of potential for imported flowers, and also Kenyan. However, language, culture, regulations and the unfamiliarity with direct supply are making it challenging and often withholds farmers from entering the market. For this reason, Jenny Tsai, who is Chinese herself and has lived in Kenya for almost four years now, decided to offer Kenyan growers the opportunity to expand their markets. She and her business partner Kevin started to collaborate and merge with a company, Kevin International, which consolidates Kenyan flowers and exports them to China. And they are elated with the high demand for Kenyan flowers in China. "We have been supplying China with Kenyan flowers for just over one year and the volume is increasing rapidly." Jenny states that monthly sales have increased to approximately 15 percent.

Jenny Tsai at the Hortiflorexpo IPM Beijing in China, which took place from May 11-13.

Increasing demand
The demand for Kenyan growers is rising fast. According to Jenny, not many people were familiar with Kenyan flowers initially; however, popularity has grown significnatly. "China produces an enormous amount of flowers, but the consumer is looking for different flowers from the local market; such as roses, for example. As we are a Chinese florist, we know the martket's demand, which colors, shapes and head sizes they prefer. Kenya can offer these flowers, year round and of high quality." Currently Kevin International supplies flowers from around 20 to 30 Kenyan farms.

The booth of Kevin International at the Hortiflorexpo IPM Beijing in China.

Beneficial for Kenyan grower
According to Jenny, exporting flowers to China via a consolidator can be advantageous for Kenyan growers in several ways. "Firstly, Chinese distributors wants several varieties, the more the better. For a single farm, it is difficult to offer such a wide range. We the consolidator, can create a full assortment and ship it in one time to all customers. Secondly, we have a good relationship with both Kenyan and Chinese cargo agents; we can do a two-hour customs clear without fail in China. Thirdly, as we are Chinese, we do not have to deal with a language barrier. Therefore, if there are any claims, we forward it to the farm and maintain a good relationship with our Chinese customer. Moreover, we invest a lot on attending shows, on promotion and advertising to let more Chinese know Kenyan products. Furthermore, we know the different requests in the various regions in China and the rest of Asia. I believe a local Kenya exporter cannot achieve this on their own. The flower market has been quite low this year. The farms are having a hard time selling their flowers. we hope to become the bridge between Kenyan farms and the Chinese market".

The Kenyan flowers presented at their booth caught the eye of many visitors.

Even though the volume of Kevin International is increasing on a monthly basis, they still have some challenges to overcome. According to Jenny, the Kenyan farms are quite new on the direct market, when comparing to Ecuador and Colombia, as they are used to supplying the auction. Therefore, the company still has to deal with some aspects that need to be improved from the farms' end. "The packaging they use is often very rough and unattractive. Besides that, the growers are not used to taking into account customer requests. As they are used to supplying the auction, they often pack everything and do not select flowers for their direct clients. This in turn results in an unstable supply, which is affecting us. Chinese customers demand for high and constant quality. If we cannot meet these demands, they will lose confidence in us and the Kenyan farms. All in all, in order to be accepted in the Chinese market, we need all types of Kenyan flowers, as long as they are unique and good quality.”

Future plans
Currently, Kevin International is exporting Kenyan flowers to China. In the future, they are planning to expand. "In the next three years, we plan to sell Kenyan flowers to all the other Asian countries.''

For more information
Kevin International
Jenny Tsai