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Kenyan-transported roses have smaller environmental impact than Dutch-grown

According to a new report, Life Cycle Assessment Cut Roses, by Fairtrade International, the production of Fairtrade roses in Kenya and transporting them by ship or air to Europe has a smaller environmental footprint than growing roses in Holland.

The Fairtrade Foundation is a UK-based charity that certificates set standards in the production of goods. This helps ensure safer working conditions and fairer pay. There are 48 Fairtrade certified flower growers in Kenya producing 2.6 billion stems per year that employ over 38,000 workers.

It found that Fairtrade cut roses from Kenya – whether transported to Switzerland by air or sea – have a lower impact across all the environmental areas analysed, including cumulative energy demand, greenhouse gas emissions, and freshwater eutrophication– a pollution process where lakes or streams become overly enriched with nutrients leading to excessive growth of algae.

For the Dutch roses, the most significant environmental impacts are cumulative energy use (electricity and natural gas combustion) and greenhouse gas emissions, both of which are driven by greenhouse lighting and heating in the Netherlands which is not necessary in Kenya. Specifically, the cumulative energy demand for Kenyan roses transported by ship is 22 times lower than that of conventional Dutch roses, while the energy footprint for Kenyan roses transported by air is 6.4 times lower than for Dutch roses.

For Kenyan roses, air transport has the greatest impact, specifically on greenhouse gas emissions. However, greenhouse gas emissions of Fairtrade roses transported by plane from Kenya to Switzerland are still 2.9 times lower than emissions for Dutch roses, while for ship transport the difference increases to 21 times lower for Fairtrade Kenyan roses.

Pesticide use is the only factor that was higher for Kenyan roses than Dutch roses, though the study data set was limited.

The study also suggests that reducing packaging could further improve the footprint of Kenya’s roses. In comparison to the Fairtrade production assessed in 2018, the amount of plastic for packaging decreased but a further reduction of paper and cardboard would improve resource consumption and transport weight.

According to data by the CBK, in the first 10 months of 2023, Kenya exported 110,811 tonnes of cut flowers. This is projected to reach 134,000 tonnes over the year. Despite global inflation and limited growth Kenya’s horticultural exports are predicted to grow by 10 per cent. 

Kenya’s flower industry employs over 100,000 flower farm employees directly and half a million people tangentially. The floriculture industry impacts over two million livelihoods.

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