Earnings from horticulture in the first 10 months of the year have defied the Covid-19 economic fallout to rise 8.6 per cent to Sh126 billion compared to a similar period year earlier.
The earnings were boosted by high demand of fruits as Europe, Kenya’s major market for fresh produce, saw most of the countries open up following the easing of restrictions that had been occasioned by Covid-19.
The value of exports like cut flowers reached $1.1bn (£845m) between January and October, almost 9% more than the same period last year.
Kenya’s Horticultural Directorate said there was an increase in global demand, despite concerns that the coronavirus pandemic would hit the industry.
Earlier this year the industry was alarmed at disruption caused by airlines being grounded and so unable to fly flowers as cargo to customers in Europe.
Business may have picked up recently but the sector is now growing concerned that the second wave of Covid-19 in Europe is creating uncertainty about demand for flower exports in the coming months.
Alongside exports of tea, horticulture is a major earner of foreign exchange for Kenya, which is the world’s fourth biggest exporter of flowers – after the Netherlands, Colombia and Ecuador.
Fruits export earnings rose to Sh17 billion from Sh11 billion while flowers, which normally account for the largest portion of the income from horticulture exports, raked in Sh89.6 billion — an improvement from Sh83.7 previously.
Horticulture is a major foreign exchange earner alongside tea, remittances from Kenyans living abroad and tourism.
Avocado boosted fruit sales but its harvest season has come to an end with the closure of export for the two main export varieties.
Vegetable earnings fell to Sh19 billion from Sh21 billion.
“The fruit sub-sector has been expanding and growing owing to exports of avocado and high demand for the produce in the world market,” said Benjamin Tito, head of Horticulture Directorate.