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Becoming a flower grower and other lessons awaiting you at horticulture fair

Friday August 11 2017

Richard McGonnell, the chairman of the Naivasha Horticultural Fair.

Richard McGonnell, the chairman of the Naivasha Horticultural Fair, which will be held at the Naivasha Sports Club between 15 and 16 September 2017. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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In about a month’s time, the country will hold the Naivasha Horticultural Fair, a key event in the sector’s calendar. Leopold Obi spoke to Richard McGonnell, the chairman of the event on what farmers should expect and how small producers can make money from the industry

What is your assessment of the horticulture industry in general? Is the country doing better?

Climate change has severely impacted business. Many flower farms are currently counting losses due to water shortage meaning they have to reduce their acreage.

Some farms have closed down while others have laid off workers as they battle prolonged drought. Other farms are struggling due to increased costs.

What challenges should farmers expect when they join the sector?

The biggest challenge currently is the high cost of investment. Cost of land has become a prohibitive factor for new investors coming on board.

It is time the government began leasing out land similar to the way it is done in Ethiopia, otherwise there will be few investors coming in.

Besides, electricity cost is also far too high and salaries are climbing too quickly. The government recently announced 15 per cent salary increment.

Workers expect a pay rise immediately they hear about this yet the environment of doing business remains the same.

Floriculture remains a preserve of big farmers who can access the export market. How can smallholder farmers be encouraged to join the sector?

It is difficult for small-scale farmers to make money in this sector especially in the international market unless they are tied to a good marketing outlet.

New farmers can find it a big struggle to make a breakthrough in the market due to capital and marketing challenges.
But smallholder farmers can as well net profit by being sub-contracted by big established farms.

Tell us about the Naivasha Horticultural Fair (NH Fair) and what does it involve?

NH Fair started some 15 years ago with 30-40 stands. Exhibitors pay some entry charges at the gate as we believe that people exhibit to do business.

Contrary to what many people think that it is a flower event, the fair is open to all horticultural farmers such as those growing fruits and vegetables.

What does it take to participate in the fair?

All the information of how to contact us and what is needed is available on our website. In short, however, the fair will be held at the Naivasha Sports Club between 15 and 16 September.

We welcome everyone, especially agri-entreprenuers who would like to gain knowledge about the industry, including those growing vegetables and other horticultural produce.

What advice would you give to anyone keen on venturing into flower farming, with regards to how the flower value chain works?

They should do their homework properly and diligently.

Among the things one needs to know include the types of cold storage rooms they need, conditions for cultivation, where and how you will acquire farm inputs, plant health requirements, harvesting and storage and make sure you have a market for your produce.

Such analyses are very critical for the prosperity of a flower venture.

If possible, hire a consultant or someone who has knowledge of the industry to help you design a well-functioning plan to run the farm sustainably.