‘Some Kenyan nurseries had to deal with 100 millimetres in one night’

April last year, I wrote in this column about the impact of the persistent drought in Kenya. Exactly one year later, the situation is completely reversed.

Since April 2018, it’s been raining heavily in Kenya and it seems like there’s no end in sight. In two months’ time, there’s been between 400 and 700 millimetres of rain, depending on where exactly you’re based.

Some nurseries even had to deal with 100 millimetres in one night. A bizarre situation, difficult to grasp for most people in Europe. If you’re unlucky, the rain comes straight through your greenhouse roof.

The situation has led to lots of stress, both among growers and for other parties in the market. The damage was still limited in April, but by May, around the time of the European Mother’s Days, the pressure was on. Very wet, little light and fairly high temperatures: the ideal factors for fungi and large quantities of flowers were rejected. As a result, we were struggling to meet the demand from consumers.

What I noticed this year though, is that retailers were willing to think along about solutions, like adjusting the specifications (bud size, length, colour), to try and still get the best possible product, in acceptable volumes, to the stores. Everyone understood it was necessary to talk to the growers and reach a solution together.

It was still difficult to meet the demand, but everyone was convinced that we were doing the best we could. When we were looking for solutions for the shortages, we also looked at the availability of other products, like peonies and outdoor tulips.

All in all, we managed to solve things quite well and satisfy the consumers. For me, this was a good example of the strength of collaboration during extreme circumstances, when things are bad.

But above all, of course I hope that there will soon come an end to the extremes in Kenya, especially for the growers and everyone else affected by it.

Tom Vermeer,

Managing Director Xpol

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