Kenyan growers: push on or stand still?

    Last week was marked by our annual meeting in Kenya, where we met with growers, service providers and retailer Coop Switzerland. One of the evening programmes was specifically designed for nursery owners and directors. There was also a day programme especially for technical staff responsible for cultivation.

    The aim of the evening programme was to get decision makers on board for sustainability targets (time, priority and investments), and the day for technical staff was finalised with concrete agreements for the years ahead. Some of those agreements were based on the outcome of an analysis conducted in collaboration with MPS and Coop.

    One of the aspects in this study was the effects of active ingredients such as acephate and neonics. More and more retailers are actively lobbying for a reduction of the use of pesticides in floriculture.

    I noticed there was a big difference between growers’ responses. It seemed like there were two categories: pro-active growers and problem thinkers. The pro-active growers have been trying to find long-term solutions for a more sustainable cultivation for a while, and they’re spending a lot of money and time on optimisation.

    The problem thinkers on the other hand, mainly see obstacles such as the high costs associated with environmentally-friendly products, the bad weather, the increase of overall costs and the drop in income. Most of the time, they just hope that next season will be better, and they use short-term solutions, often incorporating cheap but effective agents that aren’t necessarily good for the crops and eventually, not for people either.

    We are familiar with these two categories in the Netherlands too, of course. Some growers are always excited to try new things and always looking for ways to improve their produce and increase sales. Others see problems everywhere and they miss opportunities that way.

    That is such a shame. We’re happy to see that there are growers who want to take the lead or use the tools suggested by us. This has resulted in the launch of a few new products during the past couple of months. An energising experience for everyone involved!

    Hence my message: it doesn’t matter where you are and who you work with or talk to, make it your responsibility to start improving things today. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. You might feel this is easier in some countries than in others, but as long as you make a start, you will see results eventually.

    Tom Vermeer,

    Managing Director at Xpol

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