The other nationality of Kenyan flowers

Holland is the leading exporter and the fourth-largest importer of flowers in the world, a business that moved more than 7 million euros in 2010. The country that’s known for its tulips controls 50% of the world’s flower exports and is the main supplier of two of the three most important markets: the United Kingdom and Germany. Kenya is the fourth-largest exporter of flowers in the world, selling 50% of its production to Holland.

Flower importation is fundamental for Holland to continue to be the market leader and, in particular, it is a very profitable business. According to the UN, in 2010 Kenya sold 73 million kg of flowers to the Netherlands at $3.05 per kg, while Holland exports flowers at an average of $5.60 per kg. In the event that the Netherlands were to export all of the flowers imported from Kenya, they would earn 187 million dollars through the transaction in 2010 alone.

Holland not only controls Kenyan imports, it’s also very involved in the production of flowers in Kenya. Thirty Dutch companies or companies that belong to Dutch holding companies work in Kenya in the production or sale of accessories for flower cultivation. Some of the Dutch companies that produce in Kenya only sell their products in Holland.

Once the flowers touch Dutch soil, they lose their Kenyan origin. When buying a Dutch flower, consumers are unaware of whether it was cultivated in the European country or if came from another part of the world. Not knowing its origin, consumers are deprived of information on who cultivated it, under what labour conditions and what environmental impact it had.

“Flower-producing companies are exporting our water. A flower is 90% water. We live in one of the driest countries in the world and we are exporting water to one of the most humid”, said Severino Maitima, a senior official of the Ministry of Water. One of the most extensive items of development aid in Spain and the European Union is access to and purification of water.

The flower industry is vital for Kenya, representing 9.3% of the country’s exports, comprising 1.6% of the GDP, and 500,000 individuals depend on it directly. In the majority of cases this entails precarious and poorly paid employment, according to reports by Issa Werukha Wafulla of the Kenya Plantations and Agriculture Workers Union.

Market legislation and development aid come into conflict in the key sector of a developing country. The two money flows have the same origin and destination, yet their impact is reversed and demonstrates the contradictions between north and south.

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