13 February, 2018
For some industries, Christmas or New Year's celebrations are the busiest times of year. But for Kenya's flower growers, the biggest holiday is Valentine's Day.
Workers in the city of Navaisha, the center of Kenya's flower industry, are busy cutting, packing, and cooling roses.
Flower workers are celebrating something else, too: a plan for direct flights from Nairobi to New York City beginning next October. The move would create a possibility for the Kenyan flower industry to sell more in the American market.
Right now, South American exporters dominate the U.S. market.
Jane Ngige is the outgoing chief of the Kenya Flower Council.
"What we're looking at is an opportunity to diversify our markets to the American market and we're also looking not to compete with the South Americans, who are the main producers or the main suppliers of flowers to North America, but to look at complementing the product. Because our products are very different."
Kenya's roses, for example, have smaller heads than those grown in Colombia.
Industry experts believe Kenyan growers can offer different types of flowers and lower production costs.
Kenya is currently the fourth-largest exporter of cut flowers. Most of its flowers go to Europe, Australia, and Japan. It does not sell as many cut flowers to the United States because the cost of an air freight stopover in Europe is costly.
Jonathan Ralling is with Flamingo Horticulture Kenya. He says that the Kenyan flower industry's success in America will depend partly on how much freight space is available on planes making the planned nonstop flights.
For most of the year, Kenya's flower industry directly employs about 100,000 workers. But the Flower Council says other services and products create another 400,000 jobs. In total, the industry provides livelihoods for about 2 million people.
And with better access to the U.S. market, Kenya's flower industry can only grow.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
Daniel Schearf reported this story for VOA. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.
Words in This Story
dominate - v. to be the most important part of
freight - n. goods that are carried by ships, trains, trucks, or airplanes
livelihood - n. a way of earning money in order to live