Jul 22 2013, 12:12am CDT | by IANS
Nairobi, July 22 — Flower farms in Kenya, whose products are exported all over Europe and which earned the country $765 million last year, have started investing in solar power projects as they seek to cut the cost of the "unreliable, low quality" electricity in the country.
The solar power projects are also meant to enable the farms reduce their use of diesel power generators, the main option for many flower farms in Kenya when there is electricity blackout, Xinhua reported.
The latest flower farm to start putting up a solar power project is Red Lands Roses, based in Ruiru, 27 km east of the capital Nairobi.
"We are putting a 30 kilowatt project to help us reduce on our cost of electricity and the amount of diesel we use," said Aldric Spindler, managing director of the farm.
Several flower farmers said there is a need to cut costs at every level of production because of the increasing costs of growing the flowers, most of which are exported to Europe.
They said cost of fertilisers, labour and air freight have all gone up, necessitating cost reduction measures.
Another flower farm, Uhuru Flowers, has launched a 72 kilowatt solar power plant in a bid to cut its spending on electricity by about 50 percent, from $6,000 per month six months ago.
"The unreliable, low quality electricity created a need for an alternative source of energy," said flower farm owner Invan Freeman.
The farm, which exports exclusively to the Russian market, is located in Nanyuki, 230 km from Nairobi.
The solar power project at Uhuru Flowers is now being used by the Kenya Flower Council as a case study of how other flower farms can use solar technology to cut the cost of production.
Kenya is the leading exporter of rose cut flowers to the European Union, according to the Kenya Flower Council. It has a market share of about 38 percent but is facing competition from Ethiopia and Latin American countries.
The Kenya Economic Survey 2013 said the cut flower sector earned the country $765 million in 2012, up from $694 million in 2011.
Kenya Flower Council data shows that about 65 percent of exported flowers are sold through Dutch auctions for re-export, with the British market buying 25 percent of the produce, and the rest going to Japan, US, Russia, France and Germany.
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