Oserian Development Company, Kenya’s leading flower grower and exporter, has raised concerns over a massive fertilizer shortage in the country. The shortage has reportedly been caused by delays at Kenya’s Port of Mombasa, which are a result of strict new measures on local inspection of all fertilizers.
The measures were introduced by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), a regulator for goods entering the country’s market
Oserian says that the delays are grinding farm operations to a near halt with devastating effects.
While KEBS has traditionally certified the quality of fertilizers in the country of origin before shipment, it has introduced a new set of rules which include re-inspecting all consignments at the port of entry as it seeks to tame proliferation of counterfeits.
This lengthy clearance process that now takes up to 2 months before the release of consignments has been blamed for the unprecedented shortage
According to Mary Kinyua, the Director of Human Resources and Administration at Oserian, fertilizer suppliers are incurring up to Ksh2 million (about $20,000) a day in penalties, which they are passing over to them, further pushing the cost of producing flowers up.
Oserian is the largest flower farm on the shores of Kenya’s Lake Naivasha. The company produces high-quality flowers for export, utilizing modern technology to grow 160 hectares of roses, 40 hectares of carnations and 25 hectares of green fillers. The organization provides livelihoods to over 4,600 workers.
The company is now predicting a dip in yields and increase in flower prices, which it says will be the case among other growers as they seek to compensate their margins, making Kenyan flowers costlier at the competitive global market.
“The flower industry has this year already been hit by bad weather, pest and disease pressure, the high cost of production as a result of increased fuel cost and fluctuating markets,” Mrs. Kinyua explained.
“This bottleneck within our borders will only make things worse,” she said.
Oserian is a frontrunner in hydroponics technology that embraces the use of soil-less methods to grow flowers. The technology relies on fertilizers to feed flowers. A shortage even for a day disrupts the entire production cycle which ultimately affects markets and earnings.
Oserian now predicts that if the trend continues it will have far-reaching effects on the industry and the economy.
“The consequences of further delays will be far-reaching and will affect our businesses through low or no revenues which will lead to massive job losses, lack of foreign earnings, government will not raise tax and this will lead to a complete shutdown of an industry that has been built in the last 30 year and made impressive gains,” Mrs. Kinyua added.
Oserian’s statement comes days after the industry’s umbrella body, the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), warned of a looming crisis if the government does not address the current delays.
“We are doing everything possible to support our members in unlocking the situation as soon as possible to avert the total collapse of the industry,” KFC CEO, Clement Tulezi said in a statement issued to members.
The Council has reached out to Kenya’s government in a bid to avert the unfolding crisis by looking at ways of expediting the inspection including immediate release of fertilizers that have passed the inspection test to ensure growers get the input in time.
“As much as KFC appreciate the controls KEBS is putting in place to ensure quality and conformity to standards, the process should be quick and facilitative to the industry. We are doing everything possible to support our members in unlocking the situation as soon as possible to avert the total collapse of the industry”, Tulezi said.