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Value Chains

Your Walmart bouquet may have been grown by these Kenyan farmers

Kenyan flower farmers are making more money thanks to a new middleman. <a href="">Photo: World Bank (flickr)</a>
Kenyan flower farmers are making more money thanks to a new middleman. Photo: World Bank (flickr)

Flower growers in Kenya have plenty to sell, but no buyers. Meanwhile big-box retailers in the U.S. and UK want more flowers. New research reveals that a middleman connecting them could be profitable for both.

A major problem for both sides of the issue has been a stable supply chain. Buyers need uninterrupted access to top-notch, fresh flowers that meet international standards, and farmers need regular access to quality seeds, fertilizer and up-to-date agriculture information. A business model connecting Kenya’s flower market to UK and U.S. retailers has shown lots of promise and benefits for both parties.

“First, the supply chain needs a good intermediary that can provide farmers with both a route to market and what they need for production," says Abbi Buxton, a researcher at the International Institute for the Environment and Development who studied the Kenya flower project.

An intermediary company that purchases flowers from hundreds or thousands of smallholder farmers and then sells to a multinational distributor eases the ups and downs that farmers experience in multiple ways, Buxton's team found. Farmers can expect a good price and stable demand, while getting help with setting up bank accounts and accessing technical advice.

"Second, it needs individuals who can act as bridges throughout the supply chain, closing the gaps in communications, standards and delivery to build new relationships between smallholders and retailers," said Buxton. Her team hired commercial business consultants to negotiate terms of trade beneficial to both parties and refine the product to meet consumer demands and local farming systems.

Soon, other fresh produce like fruit and vegetables may claim their spot along the aisles of major grocers by copying the success of Kenya's flower farmers.

RESOURCE: Read IIED's report, "Ethical Agents: Fresh Flowers in Kenya" here.

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