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Flower farmers have launched a computer-based toolkit for assessing the impact of their operations in the hope of safeguarding the increasingly demanding European market.
The Carbon Reduction and Opportunities Toolkit measures water usage, energy consumption, and carbon emissions from the farm to market as local exporters seek to reduce the “carbon footprint.”
“We expect to demonstrate that while our mode of transport (air freight) is a major polluter, the overall environmental impact of operations undertaken by farmers contribute least to global warming compared to our competitors,” said Kenya Flower Council chief executive officer Jane Ngige.
The toolkit is the latest effort by the industry to fight perceptions that Kenya’s horticultural sector was not environmentally sustainable.
Since 2007, some consumer groups in Europe have sought to lock out the fresh produce from the market on grounds that they pollute the environment during freight.
Horticulture exporters have begun to ship fresh produce in conditionalised vessels by sea to Europe.
Competitors in Eastern Europe grow their horticultural crops under artificial conditions, but local exporters maintain that the overall impact of their operations on the environment is minimal and lower than that in any other region of the world.
The toolkit was developed for the Kenya Flower Council and Horticultural Crops Development Authority by Gamco Advisory Services. The project was financed by Climate and Development Knowledge Network.
“This is an important step for an industry, which has to service a distant market,” said Ms Ngige.
The measure of environmental impact given by the toolkit would enable firms decide whether to continue with the one-day air freight or shift to the three-week sea transport.
“This toolkit will give Kenya’s flowers an edge in the markets that have become sensitive to carbon impacts of production processes,” said Gamco Stephen Mutimba. Europe is Kenya’s single largest market for horticulture.
Official data shows that export earnings from cut flowers, fruits and vegetables have hit Sh43.5 billion in the first six months of the year, compared to Sh40.5 billion in 2012.
Cut flower exports, which bring in the bulk of horticulture income, grew by Sh1.07 billion to Sh30.34 billion in June 2013 compared to the same period last year.
Top officials of Marks and Spencer, major UK retail chain for fresh produce, are expected in the country today to review environmental sustainability of Kenya’s production. A statement released Wednesday by British High Commission said the retail chain’s chairman Robert Swannell, and Director of Sustainability, Richard Gillies, would be here until Sunday.
The team will review its supply chain for vegetables, tea, coffee and flowers.
“They will visit the farms and packhouses where M&S items are produced,” the statement said.
Kenya is the fourth largest sourcing location for Marks & Spencer Food. The retail chain buys flowers, vegetables, tea and coffee worth more than Sh13.2 billion (£100million) per year from Kenya.
Its key local suppliers include Finlays, VegPro Group, KTDA (Iri-iani, Makamboki, Gacharage, Kenyanani), Dormans Coffee and Gikanda Coffee.
– Daily Nation