Rwanda’s flagship floriculture project, Bella Flowers, is looking to increase export earnings threefold on the back of increased acreage. Gopal Patil, the Bella Flowers farm manager and acting CEO, said the firm is targeting to produce an average of 100,000 stems of cut roses per day for the local and export markets.
Last year, the firm exported 13 million flower stems to Europe through the Netherlands, the world’s largest flower market. Bella sold 5.15 million stems of cut roses on the local market and projects to increase this figure by about 20 per cent this year.
“Flower industry is still young in Rwanda and there is immense potential for growth of both the industry and the flower culture,” according to Elizabeth Kung’u, the marketing manager of Bella Flowers. The official said the firm is working to promote a flower-buying culture in Rwanda to drive sales.
The culture of buying flowers is still low in Rwanda, meaning that the local market for flowers is narrow and is mainly limited to birthdays, weddings and funerals, he added.
The flower sub-sector fetched over Rwf2 billion ($2.39 million) from exports in the first 11 months of 2017. Over 391,690 kilogrammes of flowers were exported during the period, according to the latest report by National Agricultural and Export Board (NAEB).
More than Rwf88.5 million worth of flowers were exported during similar period in 2016, the report indicates.
Floriculture is one of the sectors identified by the government to help drive Rwanda’s foreign exchange earnings in the medium-term.
The firm started flower exports during the third quarter of 2016.
Bella Flowers mainly grows roses on about 40 hectares at its Gishari-based flower farm in Rwamagana District, an increase from 35 hectares previously, the official said.
The Gishari flower park was initiated by NAEB as a strategic investment to boost the floriculture industry and attract investors into the sector. The park has a total of 100 hectares of land reserved for floriculture ventures.
The sector, however, still faces many challenges that have affected its growth. Patil said the firm stiff faces immense challenges, including logistics, access to chemicals and fertilisers.
“We need to be in the market everyday but RwandAir ferries our flower shipments to Europe only three times a week,” he said.
Gad Niyibizi, who sells flowers in Burundi and DR Congo’s Goma and Bukavu provinces, calls for strengthening of trade cooperation with the DR Congo, saying it has a huge market for flowers. Niyibizi also said there is need to support the horticulture sector to increase production and quality.
“This way, we will be able to reduce flower imports and also promote the flower-buying culture in the country,” the distributor said.