Kenya: Extra emphasis on post harvest at new farm of AAA Roses

"The first flush is always a bit sensitive, but the reactions are positive and we have a stable demand", says rose grower Farah Shamji of AAA Roses, when talking about the roses that are being produced in their new high altitude farm in Tamau, Kenya. "We saw a good market for Kenyan roses with large stems and big head sizes in Europe and therefore decided to establish a new farm on an altitude of 2,500 meters, last February", she says. At this farm, named Chui farm, 25 rose varieties are grown in a 20ha greenhouse and mainly exported to the Netherlands. Special attention is given to the post harvest treatment. Now, the total production area of AAA Roses has increased to a total of 60ha in Kenya.

Farah Shamji at the IFTEX in Nairobi, Kenya.

Europe good market
"We think Europe will be a good market for our high altitude flowers. Currently, most flowers with large stems and head sizes that are being sold in the Netherlands are imported from South America, but due to the high transportation costs, they are more expensive. Kenya has good and maybe even better logistics to the Netherlands, and also a good climate and high altitudes. So we decided to take this opportunity and started up a farm at the Timau mountain on an altitude of 2,500 meters."

On an annual basis, Chui farm estimates to grow 20 million stems. with a head size up to 8cm. Of these, 90 percent are supplied to the Dutch auction in Naaldwijk and rest to the Middle East.


The roses in the greenhouse.

Post Harvest
What is special about the new greenhouse of AAA Roses is their post harvest treatment. "The greenhouse is similar to our existing 40 ha sized greenhouse in Rumuruti, but the cold chain is different", says Shamji.

Originally, AAA Roses has its origins in the cultivation of vegetables. 15 years ago, they started growing their vegetables under the name AAA Growers. In 2011 they entered the flower industry under the name AAA Roses. They used their knowledge of post harvest treatment of the vegetables also for the flowers. "And in this new greenhouse extra emphasis is put on the post harvest treatment of the flowers", says Shamji. "After harvesting, the flowers are cooled down for a minimum of 6 hours. After pre-cooling, each stem is defoliated, sized and checked according to different parameters such as cut stage, shape, color, size of the head, disease damage, strength and straightness of the stem. Afterwards, bunches of roses are sleeved in line with our own sleeves. The packaging, where we only use high quality material, is prepared in our cold room in order to maintain control over temperature all the way until the roses are shipped to our customers."


On the right: Farah Shamji in the Greenhouse.

Reactions
According to Shamji, the reactions to the flowers are positive and the demand is stable, however the prices are still quite sensitive. "The first flush is always a bit sensitive. But as the flowers are heavier, you need to receive better prices. The demand is stable. I am not sure why, but I think that it is an exclusive product on the clock", she says. Now, AAA roses will continue selling the flowers and at the end of the year they will review the results. Then they will decide how to proceed.

For more information
AAA Roses
Farah Shamji
Email: farah@aaagrowers.co.ke
www.aaagrowers.co.ke


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