This Valentine’s Day, there’s a good chance your flowers came from Africa.
“I know the flowers are for giving on Valentine’s Day,” said Phanice Cherop, left, a worker at a flower farm in Kenya. “They are very beautiful.”
On a crisp February morning, Cherop squeezed through a row of shoulder-high white roses, cut a flower and methodically placed it in the bunch she carried. The Kenyan-grown flower was probably headed for a vase in Australia, England, Japan or the United States. Many bouquets handed out in New Zealand today will also contain imported flowers.
Kenya’s cool climate and high altitude make it perfect for growing large, long-lasting roses. It is now the world’s fourth-biggest supplier after the Netherlands, Ecuador and Colombia.
Cherop, a 29-year-old single mother of two, works at AAA Growers’ Simba farm in Nyahururu, four hours’ drive north of Nairobi. one of the company’s four 20ha farms that make them Kenya’s third-largest grower of vegetables and flowers combined.
Cherop was one of 600 workers bused in from surrounding villages to pick or pack thousands of roses ahead of February 14.
Flowers are intricately tied to the global economy. When it collapsed in 2008, the cut-flower trade lost $1.5 billion the following year.
Cherop, who earns Kenya’s rural minimum wage of $80 a month, says the arduous manual work is a necessity to feed her family. Giggling, she admits, after a bit of prodding, that she’s never received flowers.
“We do not do this here in Kenya,” she said. “No man has ever given me [flowers]. I would like some.”