In the Kenyan town of Naivasha, 25,000 people are employed in greenhouses, each the size of a football pitch. The global flower boom has propelled the town into a new era of progress, with freshly asphalted roads, and almost zero unemployment.
Indeed, in just twenty years the fresh cut flower trade has become one of Kenya’s principal employers after tea and tourism. Many of Britain’s top supermarkets source their flowers from Kenya, and have even set up initiatives which will aid in socio-economic development in the East-African nation.
Roses are grown year round in equatorial climates, and this has allowed a global network of producers to transport millions of flowers into our supermarkets within 48 hours of being picked. They are shipped via Holland, to a hub, one of the largest indoor spaces in the world, joining other flowers arriving from places such as Australia and Colombia and then shipped out via HGV all over Europe.
Robin Parker, of Cheshire based greenhouse designers, Gabriel Ash welcomes this global approach,
“It is astounding to think that a flower grown as far away as Kenya or Australia can be potentially in a vase on your sitting room table within 48 hours. A truly globalized marketplace has enabled both the consumer and the provider to cut costs. It also helps build green industries that can be beneficial to less developed parts of the world.”
Inevitably there is a downside to this mass production of roses in countries such as Kenya. Ecosystems are put under stress due to the use of intensive pesticides, and there are key questions to be asked about the amount of water usage required to keep the huge greenhouses irrigated. Hopefully, the colossal amounts of money circulating the industry will lead the farmers to invest in more sustainable methods of cultivation. Sustainability, coupled with socio-economic development and education will be the key to the long term survival of projects such as this.
So, next time you receive a lovely bunch of roses – remember the awesome journey that this humble flower has undertaken.