With Kenya being one of the lead flower exporters in the world, the horticulture sector has placed significant measures to ensure the goods are preserved efficiently to maximize profits.
Kenya mainly exports carnations, roses, alstroemeria, gypsophila, lilies, arabicum, hypericum, statice, and other summer flowers. The flowers are exported to markets in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, other EU countries, the United States, Japan, Dubai, and Russia.
Fresh cut flowers are highly perishable, and shipping thus demands caution, care, and tracking. Even though a lot of emphasis is placed on exportation, pre-harvest procedures and plant cultivar selection play a crucial role.
At Mombasa Port, the flowers are subjected to cold temperatures among other measures to ensure they remain high-quality products.
Containers pictured the port of Mombasa
Google photo: Container news Elizabeth Kimani, the manager of quality and standards at Sian Flowers, states that the goods are stored at temperatures as low as 0.5 Degrees Celsius throughout the shipping to the UK.
Large refrigerated containers used to transport the commodity also have an atmosphere system that reduces the oxygen level from 20 perc to 4 percent and the Carbon Dioxide levels are increased from 0.4 percent to 4 percent.
“Through this system, the flowers go into dormancy and are put to sleep. This halts all activities within the flowers,” Kimani explained.
The process of putting the flowers ‘to sleep’ guarantees that they arrive at the International markets with at least a week of freshness.
Extra-long voyages mean that a flower will need more than just cold temperatures and an atmosphere system.
“We harvest them early in the morning when it’s still cool and they will be the first to go into the cold room,” added Linda Murungi from Sian Flowers.
Freshly harvested roses are dipped into a chemical mixture to protect them from fungus. To ensure the flowers survive 30 days without water, the stems are put into buckets to absorb a hydration solution.
Growth hormones like ethylene which facilitate aging are curbed by adding a solution to the flowers.
Once the process is complete, the flowers are packed in cartons with holes at the top and bottom for air circulation.
Although flower growers in Kenya face delay challenges at the port, most prefer sea shipment over air freight.
Traders also argue that transporting horticultural products by air is quite expensive as compared to sea freight.
Kimani, the manager of quality and standards at Sian Flowers, however, noted that customers rarely notice the difference between sea and air freight flowers.
Different types of flowers in containers awaiting shipment.
Google photo, credit JOC.com