"Demand is there, but we cannot meet it because of the lack of airfreight capacity", says Ruth Muiruri, CEO of Wilmar Flowers, a Kenyan company that exports summer flowers that are grown by small and medium-sized growers. They were one of the first who started to exported large quantities of summer flowers to the Dutch auction. Recently, they have become Global Gap certified and are the first exporter working with smallholder farmers that obtained the Kenya Flower Council certification. How did it all start? How did the company grow? And what have been and are still the challenges? In this article, she explains.
How it all started
In 1996, Ruth's father, Mr Wilfred Kamami, started his own farm growing and exporting summer flowers. Quickly after that, in '98, and due to his success, other small summer flower growers asked him to export their flowers. He decided to do so, and business went so well that in 2000, he decided to shut down his own farm, and focus only on the export of other growers' flowers. And the number of growers increased sharply. "In 2001, he worked with 200 growers, and now, we work with 2000 growers", says Ruth, who is running the business with her sister Alice after Mr Kamami passed away in 2015. Wilmar became a leader in the export of summer flowers from Kenya to the Dutch auction. For many years, they have been working with Vrolijk Bloemen who unpacks their flowers and prepares them for auction.
Key to success?
And this brings us also to one of the major challenges not only that Wilmar, but also all of the exporters are encountering; the airfreight availability and prices. "Before Covid, the price was 2 dollars per kilo, now 2,5 and during Valentines, the prices even jumped to 5,5 dollars per kilo." So how to deal with this challenge? "We decided to lower the amount of stems we grow. Due to the lack of capacity, we can only ship about 40 percent of what we are able to grow."
One of their farmers.
Good demand and prices
Fortunately, demand and prices are high. "A couple of months after the outbreak of Covid in Europe, prices started to increase again and since then, they have been and are still good. "We are pleased with that, but we are not able to meet the demand, due to freight capacity restrictions."
Any plans to expand? "We are currently working with 2,000 growers and due to the lack of air freight capacity, we are not planning to expand. We want to keep our growers, ensure them that they can ship their flowers and we will continue supporting them to grow the best quality flowers. As soon the freight's capacity is back to normal we plan to increase on the varieties we offer to the market. We are very proud that we obtained the Global Gap certification and that we are the first company that is working with smallholder farms that obtained the KFC certification."