News and knowhow for farmers

Kiambu medium-scale farmer rakes in millions from flowers

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By George Munene

At NjabinI, Kin­an­gop Samuel Mbugua has built a seven-acre flower farm that rakes in Sh5M per sea­son.

“Hav­ing spent most of my adult life work­ing in the flower sec­tor; I have been a su­per­visor at flower farms for five years. I mastered all things flowers—from their grow­ing to the mar­ket dy­nam­ics and in 2014 I gathered the cour­age to strike it out on my own,” says Mbugua.

The 34-year-old ma­jors in the farm­ing of cras­pe­dias with 3 acres of his farm under the sum­mer flower. On an­other four acres, he grows al­li­ums and pur­purea on two acres each. On a smal­ler half an acre he is cur­rently farm­ing sca­bio­sas on a trial basis.

Whilst the big flower farms major on roses, small­holder flower farm­ers are mak­ing their for­tune in sum­mer flowers used to adorn and blend bou­quets.

Entry hurdles
Start­ing out he says, the biggest chal­lenge most farm­ers face is land—“the flower ex­port sec­tor de­mands high qual­ity and quant­it­ies.” You’ll need a min­imum of two acres to qual­ify as a small scale ex­port grower. The other chal­lenge is the cost of seed­lings and the avail­ab­il­ity of unadul­ter­ated seeds. Most seeds are ma­nip­u­lated due to cross­pol­lin­a­tion.

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For his first crop, he bought seed­lings from a neigh­bour also en­gaged in the trade. An up­rooted cras­pe­dia can give 20-50 rooted splits. This makes their propaga­tion easier.
Cul­tiv­a­tion cost
For an acre, you will need 30,000-40,000 seed­lings, and each seed­ling costs three shil­lings. Ma­chine tilling and plough­ing costs for an acre of vir­gin land av­er­age at Sh15,000. He spends Sh7,000 on hir­ing cas­ual la­bour­ers to pre­pare the flower beds and Sh3,000 on plant­ing. He uses four 50kg bags of or­ganic fer­til­isers at plant­ing and two bags of NPK fer­til­iser at top dress­ing done at five months dur­ing their ve­get­at­ive phase and the crops’ first har­vest. If you have ad­equate ma­nure you do not need to use fetrtil­iser at the plant­ing phase.
Cras­pe­dia re­quire little water and is cap­able of going to up to a month without wa­ter­ing. Though wa­ter­ing is cru­cial at the plant­ing stage when they are their most vul­ner­able. Given the usu­ally fa­vor­able Kin­an­gop cli­mate, Samuel mostly re­lies on rain­wa­ter, but has sunk a well and has ac­cess to piped water if need be.
“Pests af­fect­ing flowers are largely lim­ited to cut­worms and aph­ids sprayed on a scout­ing basis with Du­du­thrin and Thun­der re­spect­ively,” Mbugua ex­plains. Weed­ing is done on a monthly basis.

Cras­pe­dias take 90 days to ma­ture and are con­tinu­ally har­vestable for up to a year with proper feed­ing. One plant gives about 100 stems every year. “Har­vests are done once every week, but if well-ten­ded to you can have two har­vests in a week,” says Mbugua.

Re­lated News: Kenya’s flowers, fruits and ve­get­able earn­ings in­crease by 33 per cent in eight months
An acre can give up to 500,000 flower stems.

Mbugua ex­ports his flowers mainly through Wil­mar Flowers Lim­ited. The prices vary de­pend­ing on sea­son peak­ing over the Janu­ary to Feb­ru­ary win­dow at five to 15 shil­lings per stem and fall­ing to Sh3 per stem dur­ing off-peak months of Au­gust to Septem­ber.
Mbugua is work­ing to in­crease his acre­age and on get­ting an ex­port li­cense— this he says will en­able him to sell his flowers at no less than Sh5 a stem throughout the year.

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