Shipping company Maersk Line is looking for ways in which it could help Kenya flower growers export their produce by sea.

Rose flowers are extremely sensitive and have a short vase life, which means they need to be transported within a certain timeframe in order to arrive at retailers in a decent condition.

According to Mads Skov-Hansen, Managing Director at Maersk Line Eastern Africa – a member of A.P. Moller-Maersk – the company is conducting trials on how to export roses by sea – which could cut the cost of freight for growers.

“For trial purposes, our shippers continue to load one or two pallets of roses in every unit, stuffed with spray carnations. The quality is then analysed upon arrival by the consignee’s research and development teams,” he says.

The international trade of cut flowers is a lucrative market with an estimated global trade volume of more than $100 billion a year.

“While official 2017 data for Kenya is not yet out, the market for cut flowers has been growing at an average of 8% for the last three years and, on average, accounts for 70% of the value of fresh horticultural exports out of Kenya. Major export markets for Kenyan carnations are Holland and the UK, from which they are distributed across Europe,” says Skov-Hansen.

Transporting these flowers, however, is not always so easy. While carnations are able to be moved by sea in reefer containers, Skov-Hansen says that roses still must be moved by air. “Carnations move in normal reefer units with gradual temperatures dropping down from +2 degrees to +1 degree, but sea freight remains a challenge for more delicate flowers such as roses.

When it comes to the carnations that are shipped, there are three main types, explains Skov-Hansen. “The first type of carnations, ‘large flowered’ are single stemmed flowers, whereas the second type, ‘spray or mini carnations’, have more than one flower on each stem. The third type, ‘dwarf flowered carnations’ have numerous small flowers on each stem.”

But when people buy these flowers, they hardly know of the logistics involved in moving them to the market.

Skov-Hansen says that while Kenya is one of the main growing areas, the cut flowers market definitely isn’t a monopoly. “Ethiopia is another region that has seen great growth of their cut flowers industry in recent years, having exported 49,000 tons of roses and 714.5 million cut flowers in 2015, which generated USD 225 million. This is a 10.5% increase compared to 2014 and has seen Ethiopia become Africa’s second-biggest producer after Kenya and fourth-equal worldwide.”


As you appreciate the gift of flowers,  Skov-Hansen says “don’t forget to stop and smell the roses – they’ve travelled further than you think to get to you!”


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